• October 29, 2008 at 2:27 am

    LEGAL AND FINANCIAL PLANNING: A person with Alzheimer’s may be able to manage his or her legal and financial affairs when the disease is diagnosed, but as it advances others will need to begin taking care of these matters. Thus, legal and financial planning should start soon after a diagnosis has been made. Particularly important are:

    ■ Legal documents securing your loved one’s decisions about health care and finances: you should consult an attorney about what documents are advisable. These may include a power of attorney, by which a person authorizes someone to make legal decisions when he or she is no longer competent; a power of attorney for health care; a living will, which allows a person to express his or her decision on the use of artificial life support systems; a living trust, to manage assets when a person becomes unable because of cognitive impairment; and, if the person with the disease does not already have one, a will. If your loved one is no longer able to sign such documents legally, a court may need to appoint a family member or friend as guardian or conservator to make the decisions about care and other matters.

    ■ A good analysis of the financial situation is the first step in planning how to pay for your loved one’s future medical and living expenses. Documents such as bond certificates, bank account statements, real estate deeds, and insurance policies will provide a clear picture of the person’s assets. Work with a professional, such as a financial planner, estate planning attorney, or accountant, to coordinate financial strategies. Identify expenses you may encounter. Some help with these costs may be available from Medicare, Medigap, Medicare HMO, Medicaid, tax credits, Social Security disability, supplemental security income, retirement benefits, and personal savings, investments, and property.