A few months ago, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran living in Thousand Oaks was killed in a hit and run. Rogelio Paredes lived in an apartment complex with other retirees. One day in February, however, Paredes disappeared unexpectedly and was immediately missed by his neighbors. His body was later found two miles from his home in the median of the northbound 101 Freeway. This unfortunate event reminds us of the need for incapacity planning.
Victim suffered from dementia
It was determined that Paredes suffered from dementia, although it was not clear how serious his condition may have been. California Highway Patrol investigators believe Paredes was killed in a hit-and-run by someone driving a late 1990s model Toyota Camry. The driver failed to stop and render aid or report the accident.
If you have a loved one who is suffering from dementia or you believe they may be, it is time to start thinking about incapacity planning. Alzheimer’s is just one form of dementia that causes difficulty with memory, thinking, and behavior. The symptoms of dementia most often develop slowly and get worse over time, until the symptoms become severe enough to interfere with the individual’s daily tasks.
Dealing with the challenges of dementia
One of the primary challenges of dealing with all types of dementia is the eventual loss of ability to think clearly. This symptom makes it difficult or even impossible to make legal, financial and medical decisions. The best course of action is to begin incapacity planning as soon as a diagnosis of dementia has been made, if not before. Why? Because it is easier to make a plan while your loved one is still able to participate. In most situations, individuals with early-stage dementia are still able to understand and make their own decisions.
Why is incapacity planning necessary?
Regardless of whether Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia is involved, it is not common for seniors to reach a point where assistance is needed in managing their medical and financial affairs. There are certain steps that should be taken to make it easier for a loved one or trusted friend to help with those issues. The good news is, there are decisions that can be made now, and plans that can be put in place, that will allow someone you trust to make decisions for you if you are no longer able to do so.
Consider establishing Advance Directives
Under both state and federal law, you have a fundamental right to control your own life. With these rights comes the ability to decide ahead of time who will have the authority to make certain decisions for you if you ever become incapacitated. An advance directive allows you to make choice right now. Advance directives are written legal documents that provide instructions or “directives” in advance, to be followed only in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself due to incapacity. Most incapacity planning includes documents such as a power of attorney, the appointment of a health care agent, a living will or an advance medical directive.
Why you might need to create a Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that simply conveys to someone you have chosen the power to manage your affairs, as you see fit. There are two common types of powers of attorney, one for finances and one for medical care. The power of attorney for finances is an inexpensive and reliable way to allow someone to manage your finances, should you ever become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney for health care, very similar to a power of attorney for finances, is another common estate planning tool used to help in making necessary health care decisions.
Living Wills can help determine end of life care
A living will is a unique legal document the purpose of which is to memorialize your wish to die without the use of extraordinary life support measures, in the event you become terminally ill. Your attending physician must certify in writing that you have an incurable injury, illness or disease and that your death is likely to occur in a short period of time before a living will can become effective. The physician must also certify that the use of life-prolonging procedures would only serve to lengthen the dying process.
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