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Someone You Love Have Alzheimer’s? Here’s Why They Need An Advance Medical Directive

Advance Medical Directive

Why An Advance Medical Directive Is Important

My wife’s grandfather (we call him Opa) has the last stages of Alzheimer’s. I remember meeting him more than a decade ago and he was vibrant, funny and loved to sing.

Now, at almost 90 years old, he does not remember me and spends his days in bed asking the same questions over and over and over.

Recently my wife called to check on Opa and he was crying hysterically. She asked him what was wrong and his sobbing reply was, “Didn’t they tell you? Your grandmother is gone. She’s gone.” And then he hung up the phone.

Of course, my wife called back immediately and her grandmother answered the phone. She had been standing next to Opa (my wife’s grandfather) the entire time and clearly she was alive and well. However, what was not well was Opa’s memory.

It was heartbreaking to say the least. My wife was visibly upset. She has traveled numerous times to help him when he became sick or was hospitalized. Her grandparents live about 2 1/2 hours away.

But with a young family of our own –  including a special needs child – it’s hard for her to get away. That’s where having an Advance Medical Directive in place has been extremely helpful. Even if my wife cannot be there in person, she can at least talk to the doctors and help make decisions on Opa’s behalf.

Thankfully, before Opa’s Alzheimer’s had progressed too much, he agreed for my wife to be his Healthcare Agent and give her the legal authority to make medical decisions on his behalf.

Advance Medical Directive – Why You & Loved Ones Need It 

An Advance Medical Directive is also known as a health care proxy, durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, or healthcare agent. The purpose of an Advance Medical Directive is to legally enable an individual to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot speak for yourself or express your wishes about your health. It also helps those individuals and your healthcare providers know about your treatment preferences. Examples of being unable to make medical decisions for yourself include:

• Permanent illness like Alzheimer’s

• Incapacity

• A coma or persistent vegetative state

• If you are having an outpatient surgical procedure and are under general anesthesia

Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers must follow your Advance Medical Directive’s decisions as if they were your own but only if the Directive is properly executed.

By having an Advance Medical Directive, a doctor clearly knows whose direction is to be followed in the event your family disagrees as to what medical treatment you would want.

When Should You Set Up An Advanced Medical Directive?

Now. The unexpected in life happens. It happened to one of our good friends. Our friend received a call that her husband had been in a car accident and was unresponsive. He ended up being in a coma for three weeks. Thankfully there was not a dispute between our friend and her husband’s parents. However, if there had been a disagreement about his medical care, an Advance Medical Directive would have been critical.

Opa named my wife as his Healthcare Agent in his Advance Medical Directive during the early stages of his diagnosis. This is important. If he had signed the document during the final stages of Alzheimer’s, the legitimacy and legality of the Advance Medical Directive could be challenged in court if there was a disagreement within her family about his medical treatment. This is why putting documentation in place before you need it is very important.

How Do You Set Up An Advance Medical Directive?

All 50 states have forms online where you can establish an Advance Medical Directive. However, the state forms do not always address the important nuances of your healthcare decisions. For example, if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate, but not terminal, what do you want your life to look like? Do you want to be somewhere you can have a pet? A room with a view? NetFlix? By having an attorney help you set up an Advance Medical Directive, you ensure that your wishes are complete and clear to everyone involved.

Where Do You Start? 

Start having conversations with your loved ones about your medical wishes. These are not easy conversations, but they are important to ensure that your desires are enacted should you be unable to make decisions about your health.

And if someone you love has Alzheimer’s or other permanent or terminal illness, it’s important to put into place an Advance Medical Directive before their health significantly declines.

Contact Us

Our attorneys specialize in setting up an Advance Medical Directives. I have more than 20 years healthcare experience – working with medical professionals and individuals who need medical help. Further, we’ve personally been through the process with our own families. I can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.