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Family members need definite instructions. Unlike some illnesses in which a prognosis can be widely variable, the progression of Alzheimer’s disease is known. Although the time frame may vary from patient to patient, the various stages of the condition are well documented. Ultimately of course, this means that people with the disease will lose the ability to make informed decisions on their own behalf.

This makes the whole subject of Advance Directives of critical importance to you and your family. With regard to medical and health care decisions, a crucial part of an effective plan is the Health Care Proxy. This is a legal document in which you designate a specific individual who will make vital choices regarding your medical care when you no longer can, including end-of-life decisions.

Those who are ill, yet feel they will retain their mental clarity to the end of their days, sometimes resist having a Health Care Proxy drafted for them. They find the whole idea of loss of control too threatening and uncomfortable to consider, and delay or dismiss taking this important step. While some people do retain their decision-making capacity right up to the end of their lives, unfortunately this isn’t the case with Alzheimer’s victims. And that means if you don’t have a Health Care Proxy, once again your family members may become subject to costly and draining guardianship proceedings in court.

In that case, paradoxically, you end up losing any control you had hoped to hold onto, because a judge will select the person who’ll make your health care decisions.

With a Health Care Proxy, while you still have your presence of mind, you have the advantage of selecting a person you feel will understand your ideas, philosophy and wishes about your life, health and medical care. In turn, this person will then do his or her best to make the decisions you would make, were you able to. Certainly, it needs to be someone you trust.

The Family Health Care Decisions Act, enacted March 2010, gives family members and others of close relation the ability to make medical and life-sustaining decisions for you. However, it’s hard to know in advance how it will be applied in a crisis setting, and the ability of more than one person to make those decisions may lead to conflict, if family members disagree on which measures should or should not be taken.  Consequently, Lamson & Cutner strongly recommends having a Health Care Proxy that appoints a specific individual you have confidence in to make these decisions, which in turn avoids conflict with family members and concerned parties.

The good news is, with a properly constructed Health Care Proxy and a good choice of the agent, your desires are carried into the future intact. You won’t be subject to treatment you would not want if you were in a position to make your sentiments known. And there’s peace of mind in knowing that.
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Top Ten Elder Law Strategies for Alzheimer’s Patients and Their Families

  1. Investigate Elder Law Planning Immediately if You Suspect Alzheimer’s or Dementia
  2. Asset Protection is Imperative for Alzheimer’s & Dementia Patients
  3. It’s Not Too Late to Plan an Elder Law Strategy
  4. Obtain Valuable Services for an Alzheimer’s or Dementia Patient and Preserve Their Dignity
  5. Predictability + Track Record Equals Successful Elder Law Planning!
  6. Alzheimer’s & Dementia and the Durable Power of Attorney.
  7. Caregiver Agreement & Alzheimer’s Disease.
  8. Health Care Proxy, Advance Directives & Alzheimer’s Disease
  9. New York Medicaid & Alzheimer’s Disease – NY Residency Matters
  10. Recertification is Essential to Maintain Medicaid Benefits for Alzheimer’s & Dementia Patients
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