ASK HEIDI:  How do you help someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia get their affairs in order?

estate planningShort Answer: A complication of diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease is that the person may lack or gradually lose the ability to think clearly. This change affects his or her ability to participate meaningfully in decision making and makes early planning even more important. In my practice, I advise putting together advanced directive documents in place as soon as possible if you find yourself in this type of situation.

Why it’s Important:  Advanced directive documents such as a Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney are written instructions letting others know the type of care you want if you are seriously ill or dying. A Living Will record your end-of-life care wishes in case you are no longer able to speak or make decisions for yourself. You might want to talk with your doctor or other healthcare provider before preparing a Living Will. This will help you have a better understanding of what types of decisions might need to be made. Make sure your doctor and family have seen your Living Will and understand your instructions. Because a Living Will cannot give guidance for every possible situation, you probably want to name someone to make care decisions for you if you are unable to do so for yourself. You might choose a family member, friend, lawyer, or someone in your religious community. Of course, you should make sure the person you have named (and alternates) understand your views about end-of-life care and are willing to make those decisions on your behalf. You can do this either in the advance directives or through a Durable Power of Attorney for health care that names a healthcare proxy, who is also called a representative, surrogate, agent, or attorney-in-fact. As always, I recommend a lawyer in the state in which you reside prepare these papers so there are no legal issues when the time comes for them to be implemented. If you live in the Daytona Beach, Florida area, call my office for a free consultation.

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