Parkinson’s Awareness Day is April 11 this year. Parkinson’s disease is a disease in which the nerves degenerate, predominately affecting the nuerons that produce dopamine in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. The cause of the disease remains largely unknown. People with Parkinson’s disease may experience: (a) tremors, mainly while at rest; (b) slowness of movement; (c) limb rigidity; and (d) gait and balance problems. While Parkinson’s Disease itself is not fatal, complications relating to the disease often do result in death.
Working with a knowledgeable doctor and following recommended therapies using dopaminergic medications is essential to slowing the effects of Parkinson’s Disease. Unfortunately, diagnosis of Parkinsons disease is usually not early — patients don’t start showing symptoms until there is substantial amount of the substantia nigra neurons that have already been lost. Non-motor symptoms of Parkinsons are: apathy, depression, constipation, sleep behavior disorders, loss of smell, and cognitive impairment.
Because one of the side effects of Parkinson’s disease can be cognitive impairment, it is essential that incapacity planning be put in place as soon as possible after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Even if you already have an estate plan in place, it is crucial to have it reviewed to make sure it is up to date and accurately reflects your wishes. If you wait too long, it is possible that a conservatorship may need to be sought because the person with Parkinson’s capacity has declined to the point he can no longer understand the estate planning documents.
What is Needed?
At a minimum, a person with Parkinson’s disease should have a:
- durable power of attorney for property,
- advance health care directive,
- HIPAA pre-authorization form, and
- Last Will and Testament
He or she may also want:
- revocable living trust,
- trust certification,
- Pour-Over Will
- general assignment
- community property agreement
If the person or married couple may need long term care services such as in-home caregivers, assisted living or skilled nursing home, then he or she may also want to look into long term care planning strategies such as Asset Preservation Planning for Long Term Care Medi-Cal and for Veteran’s Aid and Attendance services. If he or she has no close relatives or friends to live with them and provide caregiving services, the person with Parkinson’s may also need the assistance of a geriatric care manager to coordinate care services and advocate for aggressive care for the senior.
For more information about estate planning for a person with Parkinson’s disease or other chronic illnesses, visit our webpage on that subject.