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October 01, 2013

Book Review: Alzheimer’s and the Law

David M. Godfrey

(Note: The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: BIFOCAL Vol. 35, Issue 1.)

by Kerry Peck and Rick L. Law
with Brandon Peck and Dianna Law
ABA Publishing,, $129.95

Alzheimer’s and The Law blends substantive information with practice pointers and interdisciplinary advice. The end result is a book that is informative and interesting to read. Every lawyer working with older clients will encounter clients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. This book focuses on how to help these clients and their families with the most common personal legal issues.

The text covers key areas starting with an overview of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. There are few ethical issues more complex than working with a client with diminished capacity. The book goes beyond rule 1.14 (a client with a disability) and examines the ethical implications of the client’s dementia on the lawyer-client relationship, confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. The text next explores the importance of advance health care planning and powers of attorney in assisting persons with dementia. There is a chapter on special needs trusts that provides a good overview of a very complex topic. Paying for health care and long-term care are major concerns for persons with dementia and their loved ones and the text covers the basics of Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Benefits.

Guardianship is not inevitable for every person with dementia—but becomes a factor when there is a lack of advance planning, or the planning in place fails. The book provides an excellent overview of the full spectrum of guardianship and conservatorship issues. Persons with dementia are especially vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, neglect, and scams. The book has an excellent chapter on these important issues.

The final chapter is on personal care agreements and nursing home contracts. This chapter contains the best explanation of personal care (in-home care) contracts that I have read. The chapter reviews why personal care agreements are important and offers guidance on how to draft personal care contracts that fit the person and family. This chapter covers employment law basics, tax law basics, and the importance of caregiver agreements when applying for Medicaid. The last section talks about the importance of a lawyer reviewing nursing home contracts before clients sign them.

The authors are well-known and respected attorneys from Chicago. The book has a noticeable Illinois influence balanced with explanations of several areas of the law in other states illustrating an understanding that the law does vary from state to state. The book contains a “50-state-survey” of health care power of attorney and advance directive laws, but not of other areas of the law. There are a few points where you can tell that the book has multiple authors. In a few places the book would have benefited from more careful editing. These concerns should not overshadow this excellent text on Alzheimer’s and the law.  ■

David M. Godfrey

About the author: David M. Godfrey is a Senior Attorney at the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.