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Advance Directives Give People with Alzheimer’s disease a Voice in Late-Stage Care

It’s important for everyone to plan for the future, but legal plans are especially important for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The sooner planning begins, the more likely the person with dementia will be able to express his or her wishes for treatment and care, and designate decision-makers. And though these conversations can be difficult to have, being open and honest can help families avoid disagreements and distress later in the disease. Early planning also provides more time to work through the complex legal and financial issues associated with long-term care.

Advance directives — legal documents that speak for a person when he or she is no longer able to make decisions — are at the core of planning, and include:

·Durable power of attorney: A person named by the principal, in this case the person with dementia, to make financial and other decisions on his or her behalf when he or she is no longer able. The principal can also designate a power of attorney of health care to choose health care providers, types of treatment and care facilities. The agent may also make end-of-life decisions, such as providing nutrition through a feeding tube or providing “do not resuscitate” (DNR) instructions to health care providers, who must give the official order to not resuscitate.

·Living will: A living will is a set of written instructions that provides specific preferences for the kind of medical treatment a person would or would not want to have including wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments like artificial life support.

Many legal forms like those mentioned above can be completed without professional help. However, if you have a complex situation or questions, it's a good idea to seek legal advice and services from an attorney specializing in elder law. In all cases, it’s important to understand your local laws, as they vary from state to state.

Visit alz.org/care or call 800.272.3900 to learn more about legal and financial planning.