Legal Issues for Alzheimer's Caregivers
Power of attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person to name someone to act on his behalf for matters such as finances and property. A power of attorney will no longer be in effect if the person becomes unable to make his own decisions. For this reason, you and your loved one should consider a durable power of attorney, which continues to be valid even after a person is not mentally capable of making his own decisions.
In order to assign a power of attorney, your loved one must be competent to make his own decisions. If your loved one is no longer able to make informed decisions and is unable to manage his his affairs effectively, a guardianship of property may be necessary. This requires the help of a lawyer. The Delaware State Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service can assist you in selecting a lawyer.
Advance directives and end-of-life issues
End-of-life issues are often difficult to discuss, but it is important to talk to your loved one and understand his wishes in advance. If your loved one is still able to make informed decisions, you should consider completing legal documents that outline his wishes for future medical care. These documents are typically referred to as an advance directive and include a living will and a medical power of attorney. In other words, an advance directive typically includes a living will and a medical power of attorney.
An advance directive allows an individual to:
- Give instructions about his own health care.
- Name an agent to make health care decisions if the individual becomes incapable of making his own decisions.
- Express an intention to donate bodily organs or tissue following death.
A living will is a document that gives instructions about the use of medical treatments at the end of life.
Medical power of attorney, also known as power of attorney for health care, allows an individual to be named as an agent to make health care decisions when the sick person is no longer competent to make his own health care decisions. Only the attending doctor may make the determination that a person lacks the capacity to make his own health care decisions. At that point, the appointed agent will take over the health care decisions as set forth in the advance directive.
Advance directives in Delaware
Each state has its own rules and forms for advance directives. Delaware residents may use a standard Advance Health Care Directive Form. You can obtain a copy of this form from the Delaware the Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities.
Although a lawyer is not required to complete an advance directive, you may want to consult one, especially if you are making changes to the standard advance-directive form.
Once an advance directive is completed, you should keep the original and give copies of the forms to your loved one’s doctors or other health care providers. You may also want to give copies to other family members and close friends.
Keep in mind that advance directives are not mandatory and can be canceled at any time if the person is still mentally capable. For more information on advance directives, you may contact the Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities.