Protecting Your Legal Rights When Confronting Alzheimer’s Disease

Author: Law Office Bonnie Lawston: Bonnie Lawston
New York and Long Island Estate Attorney

When your loved one begins to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, your focus tends to be on medical issues—the kinds of treatment that may be available, the effectiveness of different medications. However, there are steps that you need to take as soon as possible to protect your rights and the rights of your loved one. The Alzheimer’s Organization identifies specific issues that you want to address after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

At the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston, in Huntington Station, we have extensive experience helping people protect their rights and the rights of loved ones when in-home, assisted or nursing home care is required. This blog post identifies the legal concerns you may have after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, as well as the measures you can take to protect your interests.

We understand that, when you have a family member who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you may not know where to go to for sound and comprehensive advice about your treatment options. We work closely with Star MultiCare, a highly regarded provider of home health care services. Star Multicare provides a broad range of in-home care  options for people living in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Q: Bonnie, what do you need to do if a family member receives an Alzheimer’s diagnosis?

A: You should immediately contact a lawyer who has experience crafting and executing a wide range of planning strategies. You will want to identify what types of care are available, as well as how you will pay for care. You will likely want to consider home health care vs. institutional care, and verify whether you have insurance coverage for the preferred type of care. If your loved one owns property or has access to financial accounts, you will want to take immediate steps to minimize the risk that they will sign away or lose these assets without fully understanding what they are doing. This typically takes the form of a guardianship or a conservatorship.

Q: What is the primary legal concern when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?

A: The issue that can present the most challenges is whether your loved one has legal capacity, or the ability to enter into legally binding agreements. Once there has been a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, there can be a presumption that the person does not understand that they are making legally binding decisions, or that they cannot understand the full consequences of their decisions. If so, any legal actions they take—preparing a will or trust, buying or selling property, transferring assets—can be challenged because of lack of capacity.

Q: What documents should be executed once there has been a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s?

A: If your loved one has just been diagnosed, and the dementia is mild, they will likely still be ruled to have the legal capacity to enter into binding legal agreements. If so, you will want to be sure that they have all necessary estate planning measures in place, including wills or trusts, powers of attorney, health care directives and living wills. They can also voluntarily establish a guardianship or conservatorship. If they lack capacity, you will have to seek a court order establishing the guardianship or conservatorship.

To learn more about how we can help you protect your rights after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, contact our office online or call us in Huntington Station at 877-581-8498.


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