Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease that can take any family by surprise. One of best things to do upon diagnosis is to begin to prepare for the later stages of the illness by drafting legal, health care and financial directives ahead of time. Once a person with Alzheimer’s reaches the stage at which they can no longer make decisions for themselves, the family will face many choices. Health care, particularly, can be a confusing terrain to navigate with little to no directive from the patients themselves. Here are some things to consider in planning for Alzheimer’s health care in the long term.
Consider obtaining a Living Will, which is often used to keep record of a person’s near-death wishes but may also serve to:
- Specify the extent of major health the patient desires.
- Protect the hospital and its staff from any liability.
- Allow the patient to retain control of their life as they lose the ability to engage efficiently due to the progression of their illness.
- Help define the extent to which a patient wishes to be exposed to life-sustaining measures, if at all. If the patient does not wish to be sustained artificially, a DNR or Do Not Resuscitate order will also be needed.
- Specify how much power the patient wishes to give to their legal representative or proxy about end-of-life decision.
Also helpful is a Power of Attorney for Health Care which designates a legal representative, often called “proxy,” to make healthcare decisions in place of the Alzheimer’s patient. Although this proxy is often a family member or spouse, the patient can ultimately choose anyone he or she desires. This form outlines the following:
- Whether or not the patient wishes to be an organ donor.
- Life-support preferences.
- Health care provider choices.
- Where the patient wishes to end life, if at an institution, at home or another location of their choosing.
- Who will have access to the patient’s medical records.
- Which treatments the patient does not wish to continue and which they favor.
These are just two of the major directives that can come in handy when planning for long term Alzheimer’s care. It is never too late to start planning, but the sooner the better.