Planning Checklist for persons recently diagnosed with Dementia

After receiving a diagnosis of dementia, the thought of all the planning that needs to take place can be a great source of anxiety for both caregiver and patients.  However, getting started with planning sooner can allow the person with dementia to play a more active role in planning for their care.  While there are many things that need to be discussed when it comes to planning, they can really be divided into 3 key categories: Getting Organized, Discussing Planning Options, and Reviewing Legal Options.   This checklist is intended to be a tool to help you get started as you begin planning and initiate some of the important conversations that need to take place.

Getting Organized

One of the first steps you should take after a loved one has received a dementia diagnosis is to work with them to organize documents that will be critical for their ongoing care.  The information gathered during this step will be vital for decisions that will be made when you move into planning discussions around finances and legal documents.

It is important to focus your efforts in four key areas during the Getting Organize phase:  Financial Accounts, Sources of Income, Expenses, and other important documents.

When gathering information regarding financial accounts the last statement is a great place to begin because it should show account balances, account numbers, the type of account, and representative.  Be aware that some accounts will not send monthly statements so you will need to discuss with the person with dementia where else they may have accounts.

  • Financial Accounts
    • Bank Accounts (including Safe Deposit Boxes)
    • Investment Accounts
    • Retirement Accounts
    • Annuities
    • Credit Cards
    • Life Insurance Policies

Information regarding income may be harder to source, but bank statements will show the deposits into an account and are a good place to begin when looking for the various sources of income.  If the patient is receiving rental / lease income you will want to get a copy of the agreement to better understand the terms of the agreement.  When it comes to pensions and annuities, a best practice would be to speak with the payor to understand benefits and options available.

  • Sources of Income
    • Social Security
    • Pensions
    • Annuities
    • Rental/Lease
    • Other

Recurring expenses such as utilities or mortgage payments are easy to find in the monthly bills or bank statements.  Pay careful attention to items such as insurance premiums and property taxes, since they are often not paid monthly and can get overlooked.

  • Expenses
    • Monthy or Recurring bills (power, gas, water, cable, phone, garbage, etc.)
    • Insurance Premiums (life, home, auto, etc.)
    • Taxes (income, property, etc.)
    • Outstanding Liabilities (mortgage, home equity, auto loans, etc.)

There as several other documents that you will need to locate while you are getting organized.  Some of the most significant ones relate to governmental benefits such as Social Security and Medicare.  As people move more of their lives online it also becomes important to get passwords and usernames for any online accounts (E-Mail, Social Media, Shopping, Banking, etc.).

  • Other Important Documents
    • Social Security Card
    • Medicare Paperwork
    • VA or other Government Benefits
    • Statement of Ownership (property deeds, vehicle titles, etc.)
    • Digital Assets (usernames and passwords for on-line accounts)
    • Contact Information for professionals (lawyer, accountant, and financial advisor)

Discuss Planning Options

While getting organized is an important first step, discussing planning options is certainly one that should not be overlooked.  Thoughts around caregiver roles and responsibilities are vitally significant and if possible, should involve all members of the family.  Allowing the person with dementia to state their wishes to the family can help reduce potential conflicts down the road.   Also, this is an important time to review care options and the costs associated with them.

  • Family / Caregiver Discussions
    • Who should be the primary caregiver?
    • Who should be Power of Attorney?
    • How should caregiver responsibilities be divided?
    • Care / Treatment Options
    • Discuss the care wishes of the person with dementia
    • Discuss the estate planning wishes of the person with dementia

A financial planner can be a great resource to consult as you start reviewing ways to pay for the care of the person with dementia.  They may also be able to assist with discussions centered around possible tax deductions, estate plans, and account management options.   For a more in depth look at different account management options see Account management options for persons with Dementia or Diminished Capacity.

  • Financial Planner Discussions
    • Review ways to pay for different care options
    • Review account / insurance beneficiaries
    • Review current estate plans
    • Review investment portfolios with the need for long-term care in mind
    • Review portfolio distribution strategy
    • Review possible tax deductions 

Reviewing Legal Options

The last key step in planning would be to review legal options.  This should start with reviewing the current legal documents to see if they adhere to the dementia patient’s wishes.  For example, do they have the correct person named as Durable Power of Attorney.  Also, if applicable you will also want to make sure the Revocable Living Trust is funded.

  • Legal Documents
    • Durable Power of Attorney
    • Medical Power of Attorney
    • Living Will
    • Standard Will
    • Revocable Living Trust

To download the Planning Checklist for Caregivers in PDF form, please click here.

About the Author

Mac Frasier is the Director of Planning for Oakworth Capital Bank where he helps Client Advisors and Clients address current financial needs and plan for the future.  Mac is also a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM.