If you have recently been diagnosed with dementia or care for someone who has it, get familiar with the following legal documents to protect your rights and the rights of your loved ones.
The best defense against dementia is to understand it. In addition to the physical aspects of the disease, there are numerous legal and ethical matters to be aware of.
Dementia means cognitive loss (or thinking problems). There are a variety of diseases that cause dementia. Stroke can cause dementia, drinking too much alcohol can lead to a type of dementia called ethanol-related dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent form of dementia.
With Alzheimer’s disease, there are three cruel realities. One, the entire brain is dying – not just memory but memory, emotion, the ability to move, process language, speak, listen, and understand.
Two, the disease is progressive. There’s an early, middle and late stage. It will continue to get worse. And no, it will never get better. Once the brain starts dying, the cells don’t regenerate. And three, there is no cure to this disease.
With that in mind, when someone is first diagnosed with dementia, the families should get health care and legal paperwork in order. There are decisions that need to be made early on to ensure your loved one’s needs and wishes are always honored.
Written document or oral statement that explains how you want your medical decisions made. There are three types:
- A Living Will – Explains what medical treatment you want or don’t want, should you become unable to make decisions on your own. Takes effect while you are still living.
- Health Care Surrogate Designation – Allows you to assign someone to make medical decisions for you.
- Anatomical Donation – Allows you to leave your body to science.
- Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) – Honors your choice to not be resuscitated from a respiratory or cardiac arrest. A must-have document for those who are terminally ill or in a vegetative state.
Durable Power of Attorney
You designate person(s) to make financial, legal, and medical decisions for you. Don’t designate spouse only. Also name a child, sibling or other independent person in addition to your spouse.
Another option is to split up designations. Leave one person in charge of medical decisions, another in charge of financial issues, and another in charge of legal matters.
Power of Attorney
Similar to a durable power of attorney, however it becomes void when you are declared incompetent. Be sure your document is a durable power of attorney. Avoid the outdated power of attorney forms.