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Living Wills and Alzheimer’s

By Jason Bottlinger on February 29, 2020

A living will is a legal document stating your personal choices about end-of-life medical treatment. In case you are unable to speak with doctors yourself, it lays out the procedures and medications you do or do not want to receive to prolong your life. A living will is particularly important if you are at risk for Alzheimer’s or dementia. There may come a time when you are unable to make decisions for yourself, including choices about your care and treatment.

Are Medical Directives the Same Thing as a Living Will?

Medical directives can be made up of several documents, including a living will. Documents comprising your advance directives, in addition to your living will, may include:

  • DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order
  • Organ and tissue donation directions
  • Medical power of attorney
  • Specific instructions concerning a diagnosed illness

Living wills are known by different names in different states, and the term is sometimes used interchangeably with medical directives or advanced directives. Depending on the location, a living will may be called a directive to physicians, an advance health care directive, or a declaration regarding life-prolonging procedures. By whatever name, these documents serve the purpose of letting doctors know your wishes regarding end-of-life medical treatment, in the event you are unable to speak for yourself.

How Does a Living Will Differ from a Medical Power of Attorney?

A medical power of attorney appoints a representative to make decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so, such as in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. A living will may also lays out your wishes in advance of that event. If the person you granted medical power of attorney and your living will disagree on a particular issue, healthcare providers should favor what you have written in your living will over your representative’s decisions. However, if a circumstance should arise that you had not considered or covered in your living will, and you are incapacitated because of Alzheimer’s or dementia, the person you have granted medical power of attorney will be able to step in and decide what is in your best interests on your behalf.

Benefits of a Living Will for Individuals at Risk for Alzheimer’s or Dementia

A living will can state your wishes regarding the tough questions, such as:

  • What do you want the doctors to do if you can no longer breathe on your own?
  • Do you want to be resuscitated or incubated?
  • Do you want feeding tubes if you can no longer feed yourself?
  • What kinds of drugs or procedures do you want for end-of-life pain management?

These are important issues that you have a right to decide for yourself. If you should develop Alzheimer’s or dementia, it could progress to the point that you were incapable of making these decisions. A living will allows you to address these issues in advance of any possibility of incapacity.

At Bottlinger Law L.L.C., we can assist you with a living will, a medical power of attorney, medical directives, and all your estate planning needs. Call us at (402) 505-8234 to schedule a consultation with an Omaha estate planning lawyer.

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