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Alzheimer’s and Estate Planning: Using Advanced Directives

An advanced directive is a tool that can be used by anyone to explain the healthcare wishes of a person who is no longer able to make these decisions for themselves. In the vast majority of cases, these documents must be created while the person in question is still able to execute them with a sound mind. 

This presents unique challenges for those patients with Alzheimer’s. Family members attempting to assist with the process of putting together an advanced directive want to ensure that the document is legally valid and truly reflects the patient’s wishes.

There are three common types of healthcare directives that should be considered by families impacted by a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. While Alzheimer’s and estate planning issues can be complicated, working with a lawyer who understands this landscape and will approach the planning process with care and concern can make a big difference.

The three healthcare directives to discuss with your estate planning lawyer include:

  • A durable power of attorney for healthcare, which names someone else to make decisions on behalf of the affected person if that person can no longer do it on their own
  • A living will explains the creator’s wishes for emergency medical treatment near the end of the life and which should be elected in times of crisis when the patient cannot speak for themselves
  • A Do Not Resuscitate order or DNR tells healthcare workers not to engage in CPR if the person stops breathing or their heart stops beating.

Another issue commonly surrounding Alzheimer’s and estate planning is the need for caregiver permission to be exercised in advance of a medical crisis. This allows the caregiver to speak with the patient’s lawyer or doctor as needed. Questions often arise about health insurance claims, bills, or care, and appointing a person the loved one can trust can allow for fast decision-making and smoother communication.

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