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Arlene Rheinfelder, EA, CP AZCLDP

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The Importance of a Mental Health Care Power of Attorney

Often as parents age, children become concerned because the parent may become forgetful, or worse, be diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's. Both dementia and Alzheimer's fall under the umbrella of ailments that may require a Mental Health Care Power of Attorney. Being prepared to help loved ones who are suffering from dementia is often easier when they have properly prepared their Estate Planning Documents prior to being diagnosed.

 

A Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney is a legal document that names someone as the “agent” to take care of these matters. Having this power of attorney in place will save your loved ones money and difficulty down the road.

The first step is choosing an “agent” to care for you if you can no longer make decisions for yourself. You need to make sure whoever you choose to act on your behalf has your best interest at heart. This person(s) has the authority to decide if you need to be in a facility or if you can live outside of care, so it is very important.

 

There are two different POAs in the state of Arizona. One deals with mental health issues and the other deals with health care. Just having a Health Care Power of Attorney will not be enough if the person needs to make mental health treatment decisions. In that case, they will also need a Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney. In the Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney, you can authorize your trusted agent to give you treatment that you say you don't want, and to place you in a level 1 facility which is a locked facility. 

Those two choices frighten many people. However, the reality is that when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia at some point it may become necessary to place that person in a locked facility to keep your loved from wandering and dying from exposure. As the condition of a person with dementia worsens, so does troubling behavior such as agitation and paranoia. Patients are often prescribed anti-anxiety medication to relieve the symptoms, however because of the paranoia, they believe that someone is trying to poison them and state that they don't want the necessary medication.

 

The implications of not preparing with a Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney would be putting your family in a position to secure treatment through an emergency guardianship which can be very expensive and a hassle, at the least.

 

Remember you must create the Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney while you are still able to make decisions. A big mistake people make is trying to do it after a diagnosis of dementia, which is generally too late. The best thing to do is to have one, and hope it is never needed.

 

If you believe it wise to look at your estate planning and make sure that a Durable Mental Health Care Power of Attorney is included, Prescott Tax & Paralegal is here to help. We are your local paralegal experts in Prescott, we prepare legal documents for any legal matter, and offer assistance in filing documents with the appropriate agency. We also provide procedural information for our clients, and can refer you to an attorney when needed. To set up an appointment, give us a call at 928-778-3113. Learn more about all the services we offer at http://www.PrescottTax.com.

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Please Note: We are NOT attorneys and do NOT provide legal advice. Your information is confidential, but we do not have attorney-client privilege. If you need legal advice, you will be referred to an attorney.

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