This week the Alzheimer's Association released a report stating that 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer's disease or another type of demetia, a staggering statistic that has the potential to change the way we think about end-of-life planning.
Though dementia can cause death, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia can also add to a rapid decline in physical (not just mental) health, compounding and intesifying existing health conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, and other health problems.
There are currently 5.2 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia; by 2050, that number is estimated to increase to 13.8 million people. So what can we do to prepare ourselves for end-of-life, given this new information?
1. Talk to your family about your end-of-life wishes. By communicating with your family about how you want to be treated at the end of your life and what your priorities are (comfort, longevity, staying in your home, etc.), your family can feel more comfortable making care decisions on your behalf when the time comes.
2. Create an advance directive. By putting your health care wishes in writing in the form of a living will, you can save your family the stress of trying to determine what you would have wanted. By naming a health care power of attorney, you can choose someone to make decisions on your behalf for a time when you may not be able to speak for yourself or make decisions for yourself. By both creating a living will and naming a health care power of attorney you can give your family the legal tools to take care of you the way you want. To find your state's advance directive forms, use our list of State-by-State Advance Directive Forms.
3. Share your decisions with your doctors. Once you have an idea of the type of medical care you'd like, sit down with your doctors to let them know about the decisions you've made. You may want to give them copies of your advance directive, let them know who your health care power of attorney is, and discuss the reasons behind your choices. By communicating your decisions with your doctors, you can be sure that the people managing your care know the choices you've made and will be able to work with your family to follow your wishes.