September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day, a day to bring awareness and challenge the stigma surrounding those suffering with any form of dementia. Did you know that the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2020 report projects over 3 million people 85 and older will have Alzheimer’s Disease by 2031? This degenerative brain disease impairs a person’s mental capacity. It can be very important for someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease to have proper estate planning prior to losing their legal capacity.
Characteristic symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients can include loss of cognitive ability and the ability to care for themselves. The task of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient can often fall on a family member. Without a properly executed advance healthcare directive in place, the patient who now lacks the capacity to consent can lose total control over his or her own healthcare decisions.
An advance healthcare directive can be part of the estate planning tools that deal with making healthcare related choices. It ensures that the patient’s, otherwise known as the “principal,” wishes may be carried out as desired. The principal can make detailed directives to the agent or allow the agent to make the choices for him or her. It allows the principal, prior to becoming incapacitated, to appoint someone he or she trusts and is familiar with his or her preferences.
A second advantage of having an advance healthcare directive may be that it can remove the burden of forcing a family member to make some very difficult decisions. Caring for an incapacitated family member can be stressful. By spelling out the patient or principal’s wishes, the agent can simply follow the predetermined choices without having to guess at them.
Finally, having an advance healthcare directive can prevent family infighting by affirming some of the major decisions. A principal’s clearly stated desires can help avoid any such disagreements among even the most well-intended family members.
A HIPAA release form usually accompanies an advance healthcare directive. This form gives your appointed representative access to your medical records. It can be imperative for the agent to have access to make the best healthcare decision for the principal.
Together, advance healthcare directive and HIPAA release can keep the patient stay in control, even after becoming incapacitated, and can also help prevent family feuds during this stressful time. Our office is here to help you and your loved ones put these important legal protections in place. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.