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The power of attorney and five wishes

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Kerry Peck
Kerry Peck

The most important documents to put into place when dealing with individuals with Alzheimer's are durable powers of attorney for financial matters and healthcare decisions. These documents are important because they allow a family member or trusted friend to have legal authority to carry out the wishes of people suffering from Alzheimer's once they are no longer able to speak or act for themselves.

A power of attorney can be described as a legal document that grants the authority to another person to become the “legal clone.”

Advance directives include legal documents such as the living will, powers of attorney and the Do Not Resuscitate order. People primarily sign these forms because they want to avoid unwanted resuscitation and other “heroic measures” when there is no hope of recovery and returning to an enjoyable life.

These are very important documents when dealing with Alzheimer's disease because they are documents that allow people to communicate healthcare preferences ahead of time so that when they lose the capacity to make or communicate their own decisions, their wishes can still be communicated. More importantly, an advance directive has to be signed while a person still has the mental capacity to sign legal documents.

It has also become increasingly popular for individuals to complete a document called the Five Wishes.

Five Wishes lets the client explain exactly how they wish to be treated if they get seriously ill, including things like having their hand held or having relatives pray with them. Five Wishes also provides signees the chance to express their wishes toward life support or other medical options as seen in a standard living will. The documents is very easy to use- all a person has to do is check a box, circle a direction, or write a few sentences to express any wishes. Five Wishes is produced by Aging with Dignity, a national nonprofit organization with a mission to affirm and safeguard the human dignity of individuals as they age and to promote better care for those near the end of life.

Five Wishes was written with the help of the ABA's Commission on Law and Aging and national leading experts in end-of-life care. The creator of the document was inspired by working with Mother Theresa and wanted to create a way for patients and their families to plan for and cope with the worst. In fact, the document is the first living will that talks about personal, emotional and spiritual needs, as well as medical wishes.

Kerry Peck is the Managing Partner at Peck Bloom, LLC where he is an estate, trust and guardianship trial lawyer. He is the author of "Alzheimer's And The Law: Counseling Clients with Dementia and Their Families."

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