What You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s and Power of Attorney

RetirementProvided by Pam ZedickYou may have read that Alzheimer's is a serious disease and that the people that are suffering from it usually need more attention and care. Aside from that, not many people understand that it can have many more legal and ethical implications than they may have imagined.

If you're a caregiver or you are someone that has a family member with this disease, you should be aware of power of attorney and living wills. In this article, we'll discuss a few topics that may help you in understanding these two particular topics.

Living will and health care power of attorney

A person can sign a living will, which is a document that allows health care professionals to stop artificial life-sustaining measures if the patient has a terminal condition.

The health care power of attorney, on the other hand, is used so that a person can make a health care decision on someone else's behalf. This authority is usually given to a spouse or to a child that has become an adult and can be used when the incapacitated person is either unconscious or has their cognitive abilities diminished.

If you have someone in your family that is suffering from Alzheimer's or you know that they have a chance of developing it in the future, then it's best to have these two documents prepared ahead of time.

Alzheimer's disease and legal documents

Alzheimer's, as it progresses, may significantly impact living wills and power of attorney. It may be best to ensure that these documents are taken care of in the earliest stage possible. It's important to keep in mind the following aspects:

  • Only the person that has Alzheimer's can sign these documents
  • The patient needs to fully understand the documents that they are signing, because otherwise they can't be prepared by an attorney or a notary

If you want to make sure that it's not too late for them to sign these documents, don't postpone until your loved one has reached a late stage of the disease.

The capacity of understanding a legal document

Attorneys and notaries don't have medical experience, nor do they know much information when it comes to certain medical aspects about Alzheimer's. Because of that, they feel like it's best to be cautious and not execute legal documents for people that have received this diagnosis.

There are also some attorneys that have a different approach, which requires the patient to explain the legal document that they're about to sign after it has been presented to them.

It's never too late to prepare for the future

Finding out that a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's is overwhelming. But this doesn't have to stop you from thinking about what you can do for their future. If they don't have a living will and a health care power of attorney, we recommend you start preparing these documents as soon as possible.

Pam Zedick
Pam Zedick, CFP®
(909) 626-1947
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