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What to Do After Receiving an Unexpected Prognosis

- AlerStallings

Receiving an unexpected prognosis happens differently for everyone, but the earth-shattering effects are heartbreaking no matter what. In our practice, we’ve helped many families through these difficult situations. We know that in the wake of receiving the news, it can be hard just to put one foot in front of the other. That’s why we want to share our recommendations for what to do next:



1. Ensure Safety


First and foremost, it’s important that your loved one and those surrounding them are safe. Everything else can wait until you’re confident your loved one isn’t going to be at risk in their daily activities and has the right team in place to support them. That can mean:


– Eliminating trip hazards in and around the home

– Securing the level of support their condition requires, such as in-home or 24-hour care



2. Evaluate Legal Documentation


Once your loved one’s physical safety is secured, it’s time to locate and review their estate plan. You’ll want to understand what documents are in their plan, such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney. Knowing where those documents are will ensure they’re accessible when needed. It also enables you to engage an elder law attorney to update the plan if necessary so your loved one has all the appropriate legal tools in place to protect them. This is a crucial step, as out-of-date or inadequate estate planning could potentially leave your loved one’s finances and final wishes in peril.



3. Achieve Financial Awareness


Speaking of finances, your next step is to understand where your loved one’s accounts are located and who currently has access to them. If your loved one’s significant other relies on the funds in these accounts for financial support, you’ll want to make sure their access is maintained. This will be an important step if your loved one gave someone power of attorney to handle their financial matters.



4. Secure Care


In the first step, the focus was securing your loved one’s safety immediately. Now, it’s time to consider what level of care they’ll need long-term. Navigating the different types of specialists and facilities can be confusing, but your loved one’s physician will likely provide some guidance on options suited for the type of care your loved one will need. In most cases, choosing the exact provider or facility isn’t something the physician can do for you, but that’s why you’re addressing this step now. Doing so gives you more time to do your due diligence and ask the right questions so you feel confident in your decision.



5. Create a Protection Plan


With your loved one’s physical well-being addressed, it’s time to ensure the well-being of their assets. The cost of care—both short-term and long-term—can quickly erode their savings without proper planning. Those who don’t take action may even be at risk of losing their home. Thankfully, there are legal tools that can guard against this, such as an asset protection trust. Assets put in an asset protection trust, including investments and your loved one’s home, are shielded from the cost of care so long as they’ve been in trust for at least five years, which is the Medicaid lookback period. But even if this isn’t an option for your loved one, an elder law attorney can provide other options to minimize their financial risk without compromising the care they need.


Finally, it’s important to know you’re not alone in this difficult time. Our caring attorneys are here for you to provide a listening ear, guidance and comfort in the way forward. As hard as it may be to know what to do next, just by virtue of seeking out this information you’re already well on your way to doing right by your loved one.