Ask Nancy

Ask Nancy: Prepare a plan before dementia overtakes your loved one


Special to the Miami Herald

Q. I am 80 years old. My husband, age 84, has memory issues and, while our life thus far remains largely unchanged, I am beginning to see changes in him that are evidence of dementia. I think we’ve prepared ourselves very well for what may come down the road. We have three adult children whom we are very close to but who all live far from us. My biggest concern is what should happen to my husband if something should happen to me first and I’m no longer able to help him or manage his care?

Barbara H., Miami

A: It’s wise of you to think ahead, considering different scenarios that you should be prepared for and involving your husband in the decision-making while he is able. It seems that there are three options that you and your husband, along with your adult children, should consider and discuss together.

The first is to remain in your home with an aide. The number of hours and their duties can change as your needs change.

You can also investigate assisted-living facilities that offer memory care. This would make it possible for you to live together even if only one of you requires an extra level of care.

Alternatively, you can move to be near one of your adult children, who can help you care for your husband as well as yourself, should your own needs change. Being close to them, whether you are living independently or in an assisted-living facility, will enable them to be actively involved in your and your husband’s care.

Here are some other ways that you can be prepared and help your children to be effective caregivers with the least amount of stress:

Prepare a binder (choose a bright color, label it in big letters, and keep it in a visible place) and place the following information inside:

• Contact information for family members, in order of who is to be contacted in the event of an emergency.

• List of doctors (primary care and specialists) with their contact information.

• Durable Power of Attorney with a separate HIPAA insertion so that doctors will be able to talk to each child.

• A list of current medications (including dosage, what condition it is for, as well as the name of the prescribing physician).

• Copies of Medicare cards and other supplemental insurance policies.

I also suggest that each of your children retain their own copies of the Power of Attorney and HIPAA forms so that they will have them if they are first to reach you or your husband in the event of an emergency. This will help prevent confusion and unnecessary delays in decision-making.

Nancy Stein, Ph.D., is the founder of, a caregiver advisory and referral service for South Florida senior citizens and their families. You can contact her at

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