July 12, 2016
Planning for People with Alzheimer’s Disease: Part 1
Alzheimer’s disease prompts meaningful decisions that according to experts, ought to be made upon being diagnosed. Basic legal and financial instruments are available to ensure that the person’s late-stage or end-of-life health care and financial decisions are carried out. Advance planning can help people with Alzheimer’s and their families clarify their wishes and make decisions about health care and financial arrangements that are well-informed.
People with early-stage disease are often capable of understanding legal decision making, however, many forms of planning can ensure a person diagnosed with later-stage Alzheimer’s and his or her family can have their wishes carried out. A lawyer is a valuable resource in this process, and can help interpret different State laws and offer solutions to ensure that the patient’s and family’s wishes are realized.
There are a number of strategies and legal documents up for discussion when the legal planning process begins. Generally, these documents can be divided into two groups:
- Documents that communicate the health care wishes of someone who may no longer be able to make health care decisions
- Documents that communicate the financial management and estate plan wishes of someone who may no longer be able to make financial decisions
The following advance directives for health care are documents that identify the health care wishes of a person with Alzheimer’s disease:
- A Living Will records a person’s wishes for medical treatment near the end of life and may do the following: specify the extent of life-sustaining treatment and major health care the person wants; help a terminal patient die with dignity; protect the physician or hospital from liability for carrying out the patient’s instructions; specify how much discretion the person gives to his or her proxy about the end-of-life decisions
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care designates a person, sometimes called an agent or proxy, to make health care decisions once the person with Alzheimer’s disease is no longer able to make them. Depending on State laws and personal preference, the proxy might be authorized to:
- Refuse or agree to treatments
- Change health care providers
- Remove the patient from an institution
- Decided about making organ donations
- Decide about starting or continuing life support (if not specified in a living will)
A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order instructs health care professional not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation if a person’s heart stops or if he or she stops breathing. A DNR order is signed by a doctor and put in a person’s medical chart.
Remember three very important planning tools:
- Start discussions early.
- Review plans over time.
- Reduce anxiety about funeral and burial arrangements.
For More Information
Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
P.O. Box 8250
Silver Spring, MD 20907-8250
A service of the National Institute on Aging, the ADEAR Center offers information and publications for families, caregivers, and professionals on diagnosis, treatment, patient care, caregiver needs, long-term care, education and training, and research related to Alzheimer’s disease. Staff members answer telephone, email, and written requests and make referrals to local and national resources. The ADEAR website offers free publications in English and Spanish, email alert and online Connections newsletter subscriptions, the Alzheimer’s clinical trials database, the AD Library database, and more. An additional helpful resources is Legal and Financial Planning for People with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Families often need information about community resources, such as home care, adult day care, and nursing homes. Contact the Eldercare Locator to find these resources in your area. The Eldercare Locator is a service of the Administration on Aging.
National Institute on Aging
P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057
This service of the NIA offers many helpful publications, including:
- Age Page: Getting Your Affairs in Order
- End of Life: Helping with Comfort and Care
- So Far Away: Twenty Questions and Answers About Long-Distance Caregiving
National Library of Medicine
Visit this senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, offering health information for older adults. Special features make it simple to use. For example, you can click on a button to make the type larger.