Once a diagnosis of dementia has been received, families need to immediately begin advance care planning, as explained in a recent article titled “Can Someone With Dementia Sign Legal Documents” from Health News. Depending on their medical condition, some patients with dementia, particularly in early stages, are capable of making their own decisions regarding legal matters. However, discussions must begin early, so the person can be fully involved and understand the planning process.
When family members don’t know the wishes of their loved ones, they are more likely to experience distress and difficulties in making decisions. Families report feelings of guilt, self-doubt and stress while making care decisions with no input from their loved ones.
Laws concerning advance care vary from state to state. A certified elder law attorney can help older adults interpret state laws, understand their financial options, and plan how their wishes will be carried out if they have a diagnosis that limits their decision-making capacity.
Advance care planning focuses on both long-term care and planning for funeral arrangements. These documents typically include a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, a Power of Attorney for Healthcare, a Living Will (also called a Directive to Physicians), and a General HIPAA Authorization.
The Power of Attorney for Healthcare names another person, called an Agent, who can make medical decisions when the physician determines that the person with dementia is unable to understand their care options.
A Living Will or Directive to Physicians states a person’s wishes for end-of-life treatment. This documents their views about specific medical procedures including but not limited to dialysis, tube feeding or blood transfusions. If the person becomes incapacitated, then families may make treatment decisions based on their loved one’s expressed wishes. This document is especially helpful for the Healthcare Agent.
A General HIPAA Authorization provides access to health records for the Agent and other trusted individuals. Without authorization, a medical provider can not share protected health information.
Planning for a funeral is a difficult task. However, it will alleviate stress and possible guilt in the future. People with dementia can tell their loved ones in advance what they want regarding a funeral or memorial service, burial, or cremation. If any arrangements are already in place, such as the purchase of a burial plot, providing details to family members will make it easier to manage.
Advance care planning can be a sensitive topic, especially after a troubling diagnosis but seeking legal advice early on is useful so the family can focus on making sure their loved one has the care they want. Involving the person with dementia in the process is respectful. An elder lawyer attorney will be able to guide the family to ensure planning is done properly. Book a call today.
Reference: Health News (Jan. 11, 2023) “Can Someone With Dementia Sign Legal Documents”