Alzheimer’s – Protecting Choices with Durable Power of Attorney and Advanced Healthcare Guidelines

Once you are about to care for an elderly person with Alzheimer’s disease, you should review your loved one’s sustainable power of attorney for finances and their advanced health care guidelines. Unfortunately, if that person is not of sound mind or body (especially if they have mid-to-late Alzheimer’s), then it’s too late for them to prepare these important legal documents. However, if you go to court and the judge asks you to name the guardian (full or financial guardianship), you will be held responsible for your elder’s legal and financial decisions.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney appoints you as the person to pay the elder’s bills, collect and deposit their earnings, and manage other financial matters. You need to find your elder’s legal and financial records and be comfortable with their assets, income, and expenses.

Here is a list of documents you should collect:

o Wills

o Bank and securities accounts

o Deeds, loans and deeds of ownership

o Pension and pension benefits

o Social security information

o Insurance

As someone responsible for caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, you should know that Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and the level of care can increase and change over time. You should consider the cost of long-term care, prescription drugs, and home care. There are several ways you can cover the cost of long-term care, including looking at your elder’s employer insurance plan (group and retiree coverage), disability insurance, Medicare and Medigap, and long-term care insurance. Your eldest may also qualify for Social Security and/or Medicaid disabilities. And don’t forget the community programs to help with meals, respite care, and transportation.

Advanced Healthcare Guidelines

Advanced care guidelines ensure that your elder’s care requests are passed on to the caregivers and that you act as a guardian on behalf of your elder. Advanced Care Guidelines also include a living will that tells caregivers what your elder would prefer if he or she becomes incapacitated. The will gives preferences for life-prolonging treatments such as the use of a ventilator, resuscitation, dialysis, surgery and antibiotics. The elder and guardian can choose to receive all life-prolonging treatments, a few or none at all. The will should also state whether your elder wants artificial food and water if he is close to death.

Here’s a checklist of other advanced health care guidelines:

o Designating your durable power of attorney for health care that grants or denies consent (which is usually the guardian). He or she can also fire and hire medical personnel, access medical records and obtain court approval

o Designate the physician supervising care

o Identifying and specifying treatments given or withheld (mentioned above in living will)

o Expressing feelings of concern – does the elder want a full dose of painkillers every time?

o Giving instructions for organ donation

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After all papers are signed and notarized, make sure you make enough copies and keep the originals in a safe so other copies are readily available. Handing out the records for your loved one with Alzheimer’s is a lot of work, but you’ll save yourself so much time and pain if the financial, legal, and health issues are well planned before your loved one moves into assisted living facilities or if additional home care is needed.

Sources: Alzheimer’s Association 225 N. Michigan Ave. fl. 17 Chicago, IL 60601-7633 1-800-272-3900

Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center P.O. Box 8250 Silver Spring, MD 20907-8250 1-800-438-4380