Elder law involves all of the legal issues that impact our nation’s senior citizens, and it is a rapidly expanding field due to the fact that the population in the United States is aging considerably. Senior citizens are the fastest-growing age group in the country, and the oldest old, people who are at least 85, are the demographic subset that is growing fastest of all. People are living longer than ever and this is creating the need for some very specific forms of end-of-life planning, particularly in light of the increasing likelihood of incapacity once you reach an advanced age.
Dementia is one of the leading causes of diminished decision-making capabilities among senior citizens, and the leading cause of dementia here in the United States is Alzheimer’s disease. We’ve all heard of Alzheimer’s disease, but when you examine the statistics it is surprising to many when they find out just how common it has become. Somewhere in the vicinity of 13% of people who have reached the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. Once you reach the age of 85, there’s a 40% chance that you will be an Alzheimer’s sufferer.
People who become unable to make medical and financial decisions later in their lives can sometimes become wards of the state when an interested party petitions the court to name a guardian to act in behalf of the incapacitated individual. Most people would rather have a family member or trusted friend act in their behalf should it become necessary, and this can be facilitated through the execution of durable powers of attorney for medical and financial decision-making. Unlike standard powers of attorney, durable powers of attorney remain in place after the incapacitation of the grantor.
Is quite possible that you will never be in a position where you cannot make your own financial and medical decisions. However, it is better to be safe than sorry, and through the execution of these simple documents, you can rest assured that people of your choosing will be making decisions in your behalf should you ever become unable to make them for yourself.