The numbers are unsettling. If one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, chances are good that you or someone you love will likely endure this diagnosis, according to the Press Herald’s article “Planning for Incapacity: Advance Healthcare Directive and Durable Power of Attorney.” The smart thing to do is to take the opportunity in advance to deal with the tough issues, while the person is still legally competent.
The best way to plan for end-of-life wishes is to have two very important documents in place:
A healthcare directive documents end-of-life wishes and gives one or more people the legal right to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, while you are living.
A durable power of attorney is similar to a healthcare directive but is focused more on financial matters.
What often happens is that people wait until they are “old enough” to have these documents created. That is a big mistake. We never know when they will be needed, and we never know what the future will bring. However, it is safe to assume that at some point, these documents will be needed.
For adult children, keep an eye on your aging parent’s orientation. If you see a marked change in behavior, if they seem not to know what day/date/time it is, or if you see them appearing confused about things they used to handle with no issues, then it’s time to start talking and planning. Don’t neglect to speak with other family members, so you are all on the same page. That will make the process easier going forward.
When considering who should be named, think about the people who know your loved ones well, are familiar with their values and wishes and are in the best position to advocate on their behalf. One person might be very good with finances, and another might have the knack for navigating health care issues and caregivers. There needs to be a conversation about their responsibilities and expectations, should they take on the role.
What if these documents aren’t created in time?
Here’s where things can get expensive, time-consuming and stressful. Without these and other estate planning documents in place, the court has to become involved with guardianship and conservatorship planning.
Among other problems, it is possible that the court may appoint someone you and your family may not know to be responsible for their financial and medical well-being. Having a healthcare directive and a durable power of attorney in place, will ensure that the family remains in charge of their loved ones.
Reference: Press Herald (May 20, 2019) “Planning for Incapacity: Advance Healthcare Directive and Durable Power of Attorney.”