If you’re caring for a loved one who’s living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of memory loss, certain legal considerations could be necessary to ensure your loved one’s health, safety and well-being. Creating a living will and naming a power of attorney can help families ensure their loved one’s wishes are honored in a care setting during the later stages of memory loss.
Lonette Bentley, Executive Director at Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola, a memory care assisted living community in Pensacola, Florida, helps families understand their loved one’s legal options when faced with progressive memory loss. “It’s not something we like to think about,” says Bentley. “Elder law and end-of-life planning is a reminder of their loved one’s life-altering disease. But it’s important for families and their loved one to realize that there are legal tools out there to make painful and difficult situations easier.
You don’t have to be near the end to be making these plans, either. Says Bentley, “The sooner you make these plans, the better. Start the discussion when your loved one is still lucid and able to participate in their own future. Once the disease progresses, they won’t be able to choose, and families will be forced to do what they think is best without confirmation of their loved one’s consent.”
How to Protect Your Loved One with the Law
Living wills, power of attorney and guardianships are all worth considering as your loved one’s memory loss progresses. According to the Mayo Clinic®, living wills and other advance directives describe your loved one’s preferences for care, speaking for them when they are not able to speak for themselves.
If your loved one ever enters a situation in which they are unable to make proper decisions for their own health, these legal mandates give a trusted person (either yourself or a close friend or family member) the right to make decisions on their behalf:
Living Wills – A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a written document that states how your loved one would like to be cared for if they become terminally ill, incapacitated or cannot communicate their healthcare wishes.
A living will legally ensures that they receive the healthcare and treatments that they prefer, even if they are unable to communicate. To ensure that the wishes stated in a living will are carried out by healthcare providers, they can name a trusted loved one as their Power of Attorney to make sure their wishes are respected.
Power of Attorney – Naming someone Power of Attorney (POA) gives that person the legal power to manage and make decisions about your loved one’s care and finances should they become unable to do so. A POA is usually a spouse or adult child who understands their wishes and will make decisions that are in their best interest.
While a POA is responsible for making decisions on your loved one’s behalf, they cannot override your loved one’s decisions if they are still capable of making them. Choosing a POA should be handled carefully, as he or she may be responsible for making life-altering decisions. Communication with a POA is vital in order to ensure they understand your loved one’s preferences and concerns regarding the management of their healthcare.
Guardianship – Guardianship over a loved one who is considered ‘mentally incapacitated’ due to Alzheimer’s disease or memory loss is granted by a judge through a court proceeding. Just as with minor children, legal guardianship of an older loved one gives you the right to make decisions about their living situation, healthcare and finances.
Guardianship is often the solution if your loved one can no longer make safe decisions about their own well-being. For example, if your loved one lives alone in an unsafe condition and refuses care or assistance, guardianship may be the best option for your family. Guardianship is also granted if your loved one with unable to legally sign power of attorney documents due to their cognitive decline.
To obtain legal guardianship, your loved one must be proven mentally incapacitated (usually through examination by a psychologist), and the court must decide that you would make an appropriate guardian. The court will consider whether you would make good decisions about your loved one’s medical treatment, finances and long-term care. You can learn more about guardianships here.
If your loved one’s situation does not require you to obtain legal guardianship over their care, it’s still important to address living wills and power of attorney while they are still capable of making decisions for themselves, either shortly after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis or while they are in the early stages of the memory loss. Making legal preparations well in advance will allow your loved one to have their say in how they are cared for.
A Community Built for Care
Whether you need help learning about elder law considerations or you want to know more about obtaining a legal guardianship, Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola can help. “If there comes a time when your loved one’s needs grow beyond the care you can provide, memory care might be the best solution,” say Bentley. “Consider memory care assisted living as part of your loved one’s care plan.
“Clarity Pointe Pensacola is specially designed to not only meet the needs of loved ones with memory loss, but enhance their way of life. Contact us to learn more about our unique approach to care.”
Clarity Pointe … Our Difference is Clear
Clarity Pointe’s Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.
Unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center, Clarity Pointe Pensacola offers three freestanding, purpose-built Memory Care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to Memory Care Assisted Living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.
We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in Alzheimer’s care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living and compassionate respectful care.
For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and meaningful.
To learn more about the Clarity Pointe Difference, contact us today!