Thank you so much for the question!
In the reality of the healthcare and financial worlds, we find that having the proper legal documents in place is always best. This is for everyone over the age of 18!
Although the GA Advance Directive for Healthcare is available for free online – we strongly recommend a consultation with an elder law or estate planning attorney to discuss this document, a financial power of attorney, and a legal will. All three are important pieces to ensure proactive discussions and documentation has occurred.
Thus, if your loved one currently has capacity (which is a legal term regarding one’s ability to make legal decisions), encourage the completion of their documents. If you are unsure of their capacity, please discuss your concerns with an elder law or estate planning attorney. A diagnosis of dementia does not always mean that someone does not have legal capacity!
If they have previously completed the documents – ask for copies in order to have them readily available for when they may be needed. If the documents are more than 5 years old or created out of state, we recommend a review to ensure the documents have the ability to do what you expect them to do when needed.
It will save in time, grief, costs, and unnecessary efforts down the road when your loved one may NOT have capacity and especially then if they disagree with your opinion of what is obviously needed to keep your loved one living and safe. And, following death – the GA Advance Directive for Healthcare can give authorization for autopsy, organ donation, and funeral planning.
Also, if you are unable to speak on their behalf yourself – the documents can be a place for your loved ones to name back-up agents to act on their behalf. We do not recommend that the primary role as decision maker be shared – however, that someone be chosen as primary and others as backup. This can reduce confusion or arguments in the future.
We find that decisions are best if the people who know the most, care the most, and truly have their best interest at heart are left with those responsibilities. That is not always accomplished by following the law as it currently stands in granting decision making rights for those without the proper documents in place.
Wishing the best to you and yours! Lisa