Of the many reasons early diagnosis of Alzheimer's is important, having time to get your advance directives in order is one of the most important. The term advance directives refers to preferences about treatment and the designation of a surrogate decision-maker in the event you should become unable to make decisions yourself.
One type of advance directive, known as a living will, can specify the types of treatments and procedures that you want or don't want to receive if you should become terminally ill or go into a vegetative state.
One of the most important types of advance directives is the designation of a health care proxy, someone who can make your health care decisions if you become mentally incapacitated. Often referred to as a durable power of attorney for health care, this legal document designates a person to make health care decisions for you. Unlike a living will, it is not limited to end-of-life situations.
A durable power of attorney becomes effective when it is signed and continues indefinitely, although you may revoke it at any time as long as you still have mental capacity. A key reason to act early is that once you lose the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of your actions, you are no longer able to execute a valid power of attorney. These situations may require the appointment of a legal guardian or conservator, which has major implications for restricting your rights. Finding legal professionals to help sort out these legal issues may be valuable.
The Association for Frontotemporal Dementias, "Decision Making Powers: Giving Decision-Making Authority to Others." Accessed: April 29, 2010