Advance Healthcare Directives Addressing Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias

In Maine, when preparing an advance healthcare directive, an individual may do a number of things: name one or more health care agent(s) to make healthcare decisions for the individual, specify medical treatment preferences for a variety of situations, describe other personal wishes for the individual's care, and even address final arrangements for after death. Our office's worksheet includes an option for clients to state whether there are any medical conditions they would consider to be worse than death and what treatment, if any, they would want in that circumstance.

A recent New York Times article, "Complexities of Choosing an End Game for Dementia," explores the decisions that some people with conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's express in advance healthcare directives, as well as the related ethical questions that arise. In particular, the story profiles two individuals who prepared directives that specify when in their dementia progression they no longer want to be given food or liquids.

The preferences expressed by those individuals offer examples of how specific and detailed the wishes that may be included in a directive can be. Or, a client may prefer simply to name an agent and let that person make decisions when the need emerges. In either circumstance, you should choose someone who understands your wishes and can be trusted to carry them out, especially if some aspect of your wishes could potentially be considered controversial. You can learn more about advance healthcare directives in this article on our website.

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