Dementia Awareness: Michigan Patient Advocate Designation

Attorney consultation for senior couple. Patient advocate designation and senior planning concept.

June is Dementia Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity to learn more about this condition and make plans for your future if you or someone you love ever receives this diagnosis.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term for a group of symptoms that includes the loss of memory, judgment, language, complex motor skills, and other intellectual functions. It can be caused by permanent damage to brain cells. Several diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, can also cause dementia.

Because of the devastating effect dementia can have on your life and your ability to care for yourself, it is important that you have legal documents in place that will allow someone else to manage your affairs during your lifetime if you lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself.

Michigan’s Patient Advocate Designation Helps Plan for Dementia

In Michigan, you can designate someone to be your “patient advocate” in the event you lose the mental capacity to make healthcare decisions for yourself. A patient advocate designation is an important part of your estate plan. While a spouse or child will sometimes have a say in your care if you are incapacitated, even close family members do not have a legal right to make decisions about your end-of-life care without the proper patient advocate designation. Without the appropriate paperwork, your family may need to file proceedings in probate court to appoint a guardian. This could result in people making decisions that are not what you wanted, and that could have been avoided by planning ahead.

What Can a Patient Advocate Do?

When you choose a patient advocate, the person you designate is empowered to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are injured, ill, or lack the mental capacity to make them for yourself. This includes consenting to medical treatment, refusing medical treatment, and arranging for care in a hospital or nursing home. You can also empower your patient advocate to make decisions about mental health treatment, arrange for organ donation, and withdraw or withhold life support. Without a patient advocate designation or a clear statement about your end-of-life wishes, Michigan law requires that life support be maintained, even if that is not what you would have wanted.

Once you have designated a patient advocate, that person must take reasonable steps to follow your desires, preferences, and instructions. This includes preferences that you identified on the patient advocate designation form, as well as treatment preferences that are obvious from your own medical treatment decisions.

Once you designate someone as your patient advocate, that person cannot delegate their authority to someone else without your explicit authorization.

If you designate your spouse as your patient advocate and later seek a divorce, the patient advocate designation is suspended while the divorce action is pending and is canceled when the divorce becomes final.

Is a Patient Advocate Designation Form Different from a Living Will?

A patient advocate designation and a living will are two types of advance directives. Both can be included as part of your estate plan.

Your living will expresses to your family and doctors your wishes regarding your end-of-life care, while your patient advocate designation form authorizes someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. There is some overlap between the two as the patient advocate is charged with implementing the decisions you express in your living will.

However, no Michigan law recognizes a living will. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities will honor a living will when it has been properly written, signed, and witnessed, but they are not legally required to do so.

Getting Started with a Patient Advocate Designation

To get started with a Michigan patient advocate designation, meet with estate planning attorney Bill Ager. He will guide you through the process of creating your estate plan, which will include a Michigan patient designation form, as well as a durable power of attorney. These documents allow you to express your wishes for end-of-life care. But to be valid, there are certain requirements you must meet. When you complete the patient advocate designation form, you must be of sound mind, have two witnesses sign the document, and the person you choose as your patient advocate must sign to accept the responsibility.

Choosing your patient advocate is an important decision and one that should not be made lightly. An experienced attorney can work with you to customize your patient advocate designation form, help you choose a patient advocate, and ensure that the patient advocate designation form is properly signed and witnessed.

A patient advocate designation form is a part of a properly prepared estate plan. In addition to assisting you with preparing this form, Bill Ager will work with you to create a complete estate plan to address your end-of-life needs, all for a reasonable flat fee.

Ager Law Helps You Prepare for the Unexpected

Life is uncertain and it is never too early to plan for the unexpected. As with any estate planning document, you should not attempt to prepare your patient advocate designation form without the assistance of a qualified and experienced attorney.

Michigan estate planning attorney Bill Ager will create a customized estate plan to protect your legacy and ensure that your wishes are carried out. To schedule a confidential meeting to talk about your estate planning needs, contact Bill Ager directly by calling (734) 649-0784, emailing bill@agerlawoffice.com, or completing our online contact form.

Categories: Estate and Probate