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Georgia Guardianship Attorney: Plan for Dementia-Related Incapacity

As part of my Atlanta guardianship law practice, I have represented several clients in guardianship actions seeking to be appointed guardians of a parent, spouse, or other relative with a dementia-related disease.  In most instances, the proposed ward had either been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or exhibited many symptoms of the disease.  I am reminded with each client how important it is for everyone to have an estate plan in place that includes, at a minimum, a Last Will and Testament, financial power of attorney, and Georgia Advanced Directive for Healthcare.  Having these three documents may save you and your family not only from problems that might arise after you die but also from problems that arise due to your incapacitation, whether by a dementia-related disease or otherwise.  But for this post I focus on the growing prevalence of dementia-related diseases, and especially Alzheimer’s disease, because it is these types of diseases people least expect but are, year after year, more likely to have as they get older.

Over the last decade, the prevalence of dementia-related diseases has grown among the elderly, and Alzheimer’s disease is leading the pack.  The Alzheimer’s Association provides a remarkable and worrying fact sheet at its website.  It estimates that 5.2 million people in the Unites States has Alzheimer’s disease, and that the number may triple to 16 million by 2050.  It also estimates that 15.5 million non-professional caregivers spent 17.7 unpaid billion hours providing care to victims of Alzheimer’s disease.  Women outnumber men as both victims and caregivers by a margin of about 2 to 1.  The total cost of Alzheimer’s disease to the American public is estimated to be $214 billion in 2014.

While those statistics are bad, they are not the worst indicator of how Alzheimer’s disease is ravaging the elderly.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease have increased 68% between 2000 and 2010.  In fact, as reported by Bloomberg, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are the third most common cause of death among people 75 and older in the United States, responsible for over 180,000 deaths in 2010.

At this time, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related diseases, only medicines to help slow their progress.  That fact is there is an increasingly strong likelihood a senior will develop some form of dementia that ultimately will result in incapacitation.  That is why it is important that all adults living in Georgia, and especially seniors, get a Georgia Advanced Directive for Healthcare.

The Georgia Advanced Directive for Healthcare is a legal document in which a principal (the person signing the directive) appoints a healthcare agent to make decisions regarding the principal’s healthcare in the event the principal cannot.  The directive covers all health-related situations, whether or not life-threatening.  It also addresses end-of-life decisions typically addressed in a living will.  Most importantly for principal’s struck by dementia, the directive is effective after a person becomes incapacitated.  This allows the healthcare agent to provide care for the principal without first being appointed guardian by a probate court, which can be a long and expensive process.  If the appointment of a guardian becomes necessary (usually upon the petition of a relative of the principal who has a poor relationship with the healthcare agent), the principal can nominate a guardian in the directive (and usually nominates the agent).

I provide Georgia Advanced Directives for Healthcare as part of my Georgia probate law practice.  They are available either as a stand-alone document or part of an estate plan package that includes a Last Will and Testament and financial power of attorney.  As part of my standard procedure, I got through the document point-by-point with the client to ensure she understands the effect of the directive.  If you believe you are suffering from dementia or know someone who is, I recommend you contact my firm to discuss the situation so I can help get a directive in place.  You can email me or call me at my Georgia guardianship law firm at 404-467-8613.

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Atlanta, GA 30361

Phone: 404-445-7771
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