The Roanoke Times advises in the recent article “What to do in absence of advance directive” to talk to an experienced elder care attorney when dementia may be an issue with a parent or other loved one. Then ask your physician for a geriatric evaluation consultation for your loved one with a board-certified geriatrician and for a referral to a social worker to assist in navigating the medical system.
Everyone older than 55 should have advance directives in place. That way, if they become incapacitated, a trusted agent can fulfill their wishes in a dignified manner. Think ahead and plan ahead.
As a family’s planning starts, the issue of competence or mental capacity must be defined. A mere diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t necessarily indicate current incompetence or a lack of capacity. At this point, a person still has the right to make a decision—despite family members disagreeing with it. Competency should be re-evaluated after a number of “poor” choices or an especially serious choice that puts the person or others at risk.
A geriatric evaluation consultation will test your loved one’s factual understanding of concepts, decision-making and cogent expression of choices, the possible consequences of their choices, and reasoning of the decision’s pros and cons. If she passes the evaluation, she’s deemed to have the mental capacity to make choices on her own. If she cannot demonstrate competency, an attorney can petition the court for a competency hearing, after which a guardian may be appointed to oversee her affairs.
The time to address these types of issues is before the patient becomes incapacitated. The family should discuss living wills, health care proxies, powers of attorney, and estate planning now with an experienced elder law or estate planning attorney.
Taking these proactive steps can be one of the greatest gifts a person can bestow upon herself and her loved ones – peace of mind. If you put an advance directive in place, it can provide that gift when it’s needed the most.
Reference: Roanoke Times (June 17, 2019) “What to do in absence of advance directive”
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