“If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, it may be difficult to think beyond the day-to-day,” .Alzheimers.gov cautions, listing a number of sobering but essential medical decisions to consider when planning ahead:.
- DNI (do not intubate) order, which lets medical staff in a hospital or nursing facility know you do not want a feeding tube connected from your nose to your stomach for nutrition (in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, people may have trouble swallowing; food or liquid entering the lungs can cause pneumonia).
- DNR (do not resuscitate) order, telling health care professionals not to perform CPR or other life-support procedures if the hear or breathing stops.
- POLSTs (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment during a medical emergency). These are also known as MOLSTs (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment).
- Request for brain donation for scientific research.
“A person living with dementia still maintains the right to make his or her own decisions as long as he or she has legal capacity,” the Alzheimer’s Association website reassures readers. Even if power of attorney has been assigned to someone else, that agent does not have the authority to override the principal’s decision-making until it has been proven that the person with dementia no longer has legal capacity..
At Geyer Law, we stress the importance to all individuals of planning for healthcare needs. Just two and a half years ago (July 2021), the State of Indiana broadened the choices for making health care wishes known, creating a single document called an Advance Directive for Health Care Decisions. In this document, you:
- :appoint a health care representative to consult with providers making health care decisions on your behalf
- state your wishes concerning end-of-life treatment (life-prolonging procedures/resuscitation, palliative treatment/ nutrition/hydration)
- state your wishes for post death (burial/cremation, anatomical gifts)
Even the most careful defining of wishes and the most careful choice of decision-makers does not make the terrible realities of Alzheimer’s and dementia easier to bear, either financially or emotionally. “For persons living with dementia to live well throughout the course of the disease, we must embrace person-centered care,” the American Society on Aging observes.
Effective estate planning means thinking about the unthinkable now – for the sake of later.
– by Cara M. Chittenden, Associate Attorney with Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates