Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (dementia) can be a scary moment. The feeling of being helpless, and the anxiety of knowing that someday you will require complete care, can be overwhelming. However, early diagnosis leaves adequate time for most patients to get their affairs in order.
Even with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, a patient needs to be involved with any end-of-life planning, or as much as possible. End-of-life planning should begin shortly after diagnosis, if plans have not already been made. Modifications to any made plans may be necessary.
Advanced directives are designed to lay out end-of-life wishes in a formal, legal manner. Planning exempts family members from making difficult decisions regarding care. Situations where family members must choose care initiatives can lead to feuding and affect the patient negatively. Advanced directives make the patient’s wishes clear, concise, and legally binding.
The living will, which is also part of advanced directives, is used to express limitations in desired medical care. As an example, a patient may wish to not receive any type of life support, no matter the outcome.
Also part of advanced directives, the health care proxy (also known as a health care provider power of attorney) is a person that a patient designates to make health care decisions on their behalf, when the patient is unable. Any health problem that arises while the patient is unable to make decisions will be handled by the health care proxy.