The importance of planning ahead after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis

If you have a family member who has been newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you likely have witnessed its impact on your family. A diagnosis can spur a range of emotions, including confusion, anger, denial, fear and sadness. The cognitive symptoms of the disease are heart-wrenching and devastating.

Alzheimer’s is a terminal, progressive disease that destroys memory and thinking skills. Symptoms of the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease include the inability to move around on one’s own, speak or make oneself understood as well as needing help with most, if not all, daily activities. Before your loved one loses the mental capacity for making important legal decisions, it is vital to have a conversation about end-of-life care.

Advance directives in New York

Advance directives are legal documents that communicate healthcare wishes once you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. Advanced planning for legal matters when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is essential. It allows the person to be involved and express their wishes for future care. There are five types of advance directives in New York State:

  • A Healthcare Proxy names someone you trust to be your healthcare agent to communicate your wishes and make health care decisions when you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
  • A Living Will communicates what kind of healthcare you want to receive when you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
  • A Living Will together with a Health Care Proxy allows you to clarify your healthcare wishes and name a health care agent.
  • A Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) states whether you would like to refuse resuscitation if it is needed. DNR orders allow you to deny CPR if you stop breathing.
  • Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatments (MOLST) is a set of medical orders that define life-sustaining treatment you want to receive or avoid.

A Living Will together with a Health Care Proxy allows you to clarify your healthcare wishes and name a health care agent. In addition to these advance healthcare directives, many families also include advance directives for financial and estate management.

End-of-life care decisions can be complicated for caregivers if the dying person does not have advanced healthcare directives. Every family facing an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis has unique needs. An elder law attorney can offer you and your family guidance and counseling on preparing for long-term care.

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