When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, legal issues are probably the last thing on anyone’s mind. But because dementia will eventually render them unable to make financial and medical decisions, the Alzheimer’s Association urges families to begin legal planning right away.
Here are the key terms you will encounter as you prepare for the future:
Dementia patients should appoint a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA), a responsible person to act as their Agent in financial and legal matters. This legal document gives the agent the immediate authority to manage banking and investments, sell property, and more.
Advance Directives allow the Alzheimer’s patient to take an active role in their end-of-life planning. These are written documents that express their wishes related to their health care.
An important advance directive is the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPOA-HC), which names the person chosen to make decisions for your loved one when they no longer can. In Michigan, this person is known as the Patient Advocate. Michigan law also allows patient advocates to make decisions about mental health care and to donate organs upon death.
Another advance directive is a Living Will, a document that communicates a patient’s intentions about whether they should be kept on life-support. This also grants the patient advocate authority to make this decision. Michigan is one of three states that do not consider a living will legally binding, but can be useful to the patient advocate when making end-of-life decisions.
A DNR, short for “do not resuscitate,” is a medical form informing medical personnel not to perform CPR if the patient’s heart stops. A copy should be given to physicians and caregivers. Michigan law states that DNR orders are only valid when the patient is at home or in an assisted-living facility. Hospitals and nursing homes may or may not honor the document, depending on their policies.
Sometimes these directives are not enough to ensure the Alzheimer’s patient is healthy and safe, and the caregiver must seek Guardianship from a judge. This requires filing a petition in probate court to take power over a patient’s financial, medical and other life decisions as guardian or Conservator.
For more information about planning ahead, visit the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center
If you’re getting ready to help a loved one sell the family home in Michigan, don’t dive in unprepared. There’s a minefield of emotional, financial, and legal issues you’ll need to know about before you take that first step. Finding a realtor you can trust is a good place to begin. Finding a senior-friendly realtor may be even better.
What is a ‘Senior-Friendly Realtor’?
You may want to consider hiring a senior-friendly realtor. These are professionals who’ve made it a point to acquire extra training and expertise in working with older adults and their families who are selling the family home.
According to the AARP, a Senior Real Estate Specialist is “…an education-based designation for realtors who can address the needs of home buyers 50 and older”.
The best way to choose a good senior-friendly realtor is to understand what they bring to the table. Here’s what to look for when you’re selling an older adult’s home in Michigan.
Choose a Realtor Who’s Sensitive to Issues Older Adults Face
First, try your best to put yourself in your senior loved one’s shoes. Selling the home you’ve lived in for decades – 50+ years in some cases – is both emotionally difficult and tremendously frightening.
There’s a pretty good chance your loved one will appreciate good service from someone who understands the special concerns that people in their situation face.
Ask anyone of any age who’s sold a home and they’ll tell you: the process itself can be quite grueling. Showings can be particularly stressful for the homeowner, what with having to keep the home looking presentable at all times. It must be spotless and neutral as well as clutter-free. Sometimes the furniture has to be arranged differently to make a more presentable showing.
And here in Michigan, you’ll need to keep up with snow maintenance if you put your home on the market in winter time. That can mean something more to worry about.
A senior-friendly realtor will understand that these conditions are especially stressful and difficult if the homeowner is an older adult. They will customize their marketing and techniques to fit your loved one’s needs.
Look for a Realtor who Understands the Senior Living Market
Many times families start preparing a senior’s house to sell before they have a definite idea on where the older adult will be moving to. Having a realtor who knows the local senior living market can be a real advantage. They may have a network of past clients who can offer objective insight on which communities offer the best care and value to older adults.
Select Someone Who Can Also Help the Caregiver
A good senior-friendly realtor can make this process easier for the older adult and their family. If he or she knows what they’re doing, they’ll immediately understand that this is no ordinary transaction. Everyone involved might have deep-rooted feelings about what’s taking place.
According to data published by the State of Michigan, most seniors prefer to stay in their own homes. That means the decision to sell the home can be fraught with emotion.
And with more family members involved, emotions can run high and conflicts over decisions can develop overnight. A senior-friendly realtor knows how to navigate their way through family conflicts. They can help steer the conversation back to the task at hand: selling the property in a way that satisfies your senior loved one.
Sometimes there are highly complex inter-generational dynamics at play when older adults are selling their long-term home. However, whether you’re a close relative or not, you’re involved in a major life event for the senior you’re caring for. A knowledgeable, senior-friendly realtor is sensitive to all these issues, too.
In the end, your realtor is there to ease the process of selling a senior’s home. It’s a thorny issue for everyone, but a truly ‘senior-friendly’ realtor will ease the stress and guide you and your loved one through the entire process.
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If you are a Michigan senior loved one’s primary caregiver, you’ve probably worried about what would happen to them if you suffered an emergency of your own. Because you are involved in their day-to-day care, you likely know their medical history well. You also understand what medications they take and what the schedule is.
But in the event of an emergency, would someone else in the family know what your aging family member needs? What their allergies are? When their next physician appointment is?
Having an emergency caregiver in place before a crisis occurs is the key.
There are two important steps for creating a successful caregiver backup plan. The first part is to carefully craft the plan and the second is to share it with others.
How to Create an Emergency Care Plan for a Senior
Begin by pulling together all of the information someone else would need to be able to care for your senior loved one in the event you are unable to.
At a minimum, your back up plan should include:
- Medical history: Create a complete health file that includes your senior family member’s medical history, past surgeries, current and past medical issues, and any allergies.
- Medication list: Also put together a list of prescription and over-the-counter medications your loved one takes along with the schedule. Be sure you include the prescribing physician and pharmacy name in case the back-up caregivers need to have one refilled.
- Physician list: It’s important to document all of your loved one’s physicians and any other health professionals who are involved in their care. Include their contact information along with the reason your family sees each of them.
- Insurance information: To help prevent your family member from falling victim to identity theft, it’s important to keep insurance documents stored in a secure location. Just make sure back-up caregivers are apprised of where and how to access them in the event of a medical emergency.
- Legal Documents: Also share the location of any legal documents your senior loved one has in place, such as a durable power of attorney or living will, with family members who may be called on to pitch in and help with caregiving duties.
Our final tip is to visit with senior care providers in Michigan and develop a list of those you feel would be a good fit for your aging loved one if you aren’t available to provide care. Include this information in your back-up caregiver plan.
Share Your Caregiver Back-Up Plan
Once you have created your plan, it is important to make sure friends and family are aware of it and comfortable with the information it contains.