The idea for this booklet came from Millie Karlin then of the West Virginia Alzheimers Association. Millie found a disturbing pattern repeating itself through several of her cases: Families and healthcare facility personnel were turning to the wrong decisionmakers at critical points in the care of dementia patients. Sometimes the discharge decisions of patients with advanced dementia were relied upon instead of consulting with a representative decisionmaker who had the proper authority to make those decisions. And sometimes the opposite was occurring, where personal decisions that were well within the patient’s capacity were ignored in favor of a person who merely had financial power of attorney. Clearly there was confusion about the roles, scopes, and limits of decisionmaking devices in West Virginia.
A small group worked together to create this handbook explaining the legal decisionmaking devices in West Virginia, including how they are created, what are the related mental capacity standards, how and when they terminate. The devices described include medical and financial powers of attorney, living will, healthcare surrogate, guardianship, and conservatorship.