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Planning for the future after a dementia diagnosis

Dementia is a progressive syndrome that causes the gradual loss of thinking, memory and reasoning abilities. When a person enters the later stages of dementia, they might lose the ability to move around on their own, speak or make themselves understood and require help with most, if not all, daily activities. Alzheimer’s most commonly causes dementia, but can also be the result of a stroke, head injury or brain tumor.

As the cognitive deficits of dementia progress, those with dementia often become unable to make some decisions for themselves. The person may get to the point where they do not have the mental capacity to make important legal, financial and health-related decisions. If a person living with dementia has a level of judgment understand the meaning and importance of a legal document, they have the legal capacity to execute legal documents

As long as the person has legal capacity, they have the right to participate in end-of-life planning for legal matters.

Make your wishes known with advance directives

When planning for future medical care, your advance directives will communicate your healthcare wishes when you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. The following are five vital advance directives in New York:

  • A Living Will explains what kind of medical treatments you want to receive.
  • A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order states that you do not want health care providers to provide Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) if your breathing or heart stops.
  • A Healthcare Proxy names someone to make medical decisions for you when you cannot. This person has the right to access your medical records that are necessary to make informed decisions about your healthcare.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney names someone who will act as your agent to manage your finances and property. The types of decisions the agent can make include the sale and purchase of real estate, spending and investment decisions, maintaining financial records and paying or filing taxes.
  • Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatments (MOLST) indicates what kind of life-sustaining medical interventions you want to receive or refuse. Along with CPR, MOLST can also address feeding tubes, intubation, future hospitalizations or antibiotics.

Planning for the future is essential for everyone. However, legal planning is especially vital for those diagnosed with dementia. Legal and medical experts encourage people recently diagnosed with any form of dementia to update their financial and healthcare plans as soon as possible.

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