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Alzheimer’s and Advance Medical Directives

The American Bar Association Journal has an interesting snippet from a new book on Alzheimer’s and the law. It notes that 85% of Americans don’t have a simple will, advance medical directive or durable power of attorney. Most people just don’t plan for their deaths. Many apparently take the position that “I plan to live forever or die trying.”

Alzheimer’s and dementia are insidious diseases that gradually rob one of his or her mental facilities, often leaving the body whole and healthy. In the early stages of dementia, which could last years, the patient still retains the ability to make an Advance Medical Directive (living will), durable power of attorney and a simple will. However, once the patient passes into more advanced dementia the issue becomes whether she is capable of executing those documents. If she hasn’t done so before reaching that stage, her relatives may be faced with having to file guardianship or conservatorship proceedings to appoint a guardian to make financial and other decisions for her. This is expensive and unnecessarily embarrassing to all involved because a judge has to determine whether or not the person is competent.

Advance Medical Directives and durable powers of attorney are not terribly expensive. The cost is many times less than a guardianship proceeding and the peace of mind that comes with having those documents in place is priceless.


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