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How Do You Know If You're Following Their Wishes?

Posted by attorney Paul Stano

Sometimes health care decisions involve very difficult choices. You want to do what you believe your loved one would want, but you may not be sure what that is. Health care directives are the solution to this problem. A health care directive is a legally binding, written document that informs others of your wishes with regard to your health care. Health care directives also provide you with the opportunity to appoint someone to act on your behalf if you cannot make those decisions for yourself. In the later stages of Alzheimer's disease, it may be impossible for your loved one to communicate their desires due to mental and physical incapacities. You shouldn't however, wait until the situation has reached a crisis point before learning about health care directives. It is crucial that the Alzheimer's patient designate someone to act on his or her behalf while they are still able to do so. If they wait too long, and lose capacity to act, a costly court proceeding, called a guardianship, may be needed. Two different types of health care directives: ***Health care power of attorney (HCPOA)*** A health care power of attorney is a written document that allows the Alzheimer's patient (the principal) to designate someone else (the agent) to make healthcare treatment decisions for them if they are unable to make those decisions for themselves. Certain requirements must be met in order for an HCPOA to be valid. An Alzheimer's planning attorney can help ensure that you have a legally binding document. ***Living will*** A living will is an expression of your wishes regarding end-of-life decisions. If your loved one doesn't want to be kept alive artificially should they become terminally ill and unconscious, then they should sign a living will making those wishes clear. A living will is extremely important because a doctor cannot legally withhold or withdraw artificial life sustaining treatment without clear and convincing evidence of the patient's wishes. To ensure that your loved one's health care directives are enforceable, clear and non-ambiguous, it is best to have them prepared by an experienced Alzheimer's planning attorney.

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