Watching a loved one slowly succumb to dementia is hard enough without having to worry about logistics and financial and legal issues. As you and your loved one are faced with a diagnosis of dementia, you may feel the need for a power of attorney. As loved ones becomes more consumed by the disease, it’s important to make sure their wishes are carried out if and when they can no longer make important decisions for themselves. Getting a power of attorney is an important step toward making sure their wishes are carried out.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a legally binding document that lays out the wishes of the person with dementia and gives their rights to make decisions on their behalf to someone else, usually a loved one or family member. This person is called the agent. These decisions can include both financial and medical decisions.
Should I Get a Power of Attorney?
Signing a power of attorney document is perhaps the best way to ensure that your loved one’s wishes will be respected until the time of their death. When you know that your loved one will eventually be in a position where they are unable to make their own decisions, it is highly advised that you start a discussion with them about getting a power of attorney. It is ideal that these conversations happen and this decision be made when the person with dementia is still able to make decisions and is able to have a thorough conversation with the agent about their responsibilities. It is neither ethical nor legal to coerce someone to sign a power of attorney document if they do not have the mental capacity to understand what they are signing. However, as long as the person with dementia can still make decisions, they will still make decisions. The agent cannot override the person with dementia’s own decisions.
When making these decisions, it is very important that the person who is chosen as the agent is trustworthy and will act on the wishes of the person with dementia, regardless of what their own opinions might be. Because the agent may have the ability to make financial as well as medical decisions, it is extremely important that his person be trusted. When a person suffers from dementia, there are very difficult medical decisions to be made, including end of life care; the agent should be mentally and emotionally capable of making these tough decisions.
Although these are very emotionally and mentally tough decisions to make, it is extremely important to have these conversations with your loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia as soon as possible. Signing a power of attorney document can ensure that their wishes be carried out until the unfortunate time of their death.