Planning ahead for dementia is another thing that people do not usually think of.  But it can be very helpful and ADs are good tools for this.

There are different causes of dementia.  A common symptom, though, is the loss of decision making ability.  An AD can be a way for a person to write down their wishes and instructions during a time when they are still able to make decisions.  An AD can be very helpful for loved ones who will have to take on decision making in the future.

How could mental health care be related to planning ahead for dementia?

Another reason to think about planning for dementia is because treatment of dementia can overlap with mental health treatment options in many cases.  Here is an example story:

Advance Directives and Dementia

Aunt Helen was diagnosed with dementia.  Family members notice that she is getting more confused and confrontational lately.  Her family has provided care but do not have the resources that she needs these days.  Her nursing home is also not the best match for her needs.

Aunt Helen’s doctor explains that mental health hospitalization would benefit her.  Aunt Helen meets the standards for being admitted but she cannot give consent because her dementia has gotten too bad.  The only path for getting her into the hospital is through involuntary commitment.

The family goes to court to start the commitment process.  They are surprised and upset to see that when it comes time to take Aunt Helen to the hospital, she is taken in by police officers.  And, because of safety procedures, the police handcuff Aunt Helen.  Aunt Helen and her family end up feeling like her dignity is being taken away even though everyone is just trying to get her needed treatment.

Aunt Helen’s story could have gone differently using an AD.  She could have picked someone ahead of time to make decisions for her.  She could have given that person the power to consent to admission at a mental health hospital.  Then, the involuntary commitment process could have been avoided.

For more information, contact your local Area Agency on Aging or Alzheimer’s Association chapter.