Incapacitated Elders

Incapacitated Elders [past initiative]

When this project began, the law was unclear as to two situations then faced by older Georgians who had not executed an end of life directive and who had become so incapacitated so as to be unable to give informed consent to health care providers or to make end of life decisions. In one case, coined the “unbefriended elder” situation, the incapacitated elder would outlive his or her family and friends so that there was no one who could act as a surrogate to make critical health care decisions for chronic conditions. In the other case, the elder was blessed with multiple relatives who unfortunately would take different positions with regard to what was in his or her best interest. Georgia law did not readily provide mechanisms to deal with these two situations.

The final report, titled Caring for Georgia’s Unbefriended Elders — Views from the Probate Bench, was issued and published on-line on February 20, 2013. The document was also shared with a number of stakeholders including all probate court judges, some key legislators, and health care associations.

The final report recognized that the law changed midway through the project. Thereafter, the project was refocused on an assessment the efficacy of the new law. Georgia Appleseed is now working with the probate courts in Georgia to assess the effectiveness of a state law designed to create temporary medical guardians to assist incapacitated elders, who have outlived relatives and close friends, to make key medical and end of life decisions.

Additional Resources

The New England Journal of Medicine published Making Medical Decisions for Patients without Surrogates on November 21, 2013; written by Thaddesu Mason Pope, J.D., Ph.D.

The article examines the problems and challenges of decision making for people who are decisionally incapacitated and without a health care surrogate. Georgia Appleseed's report Caring for Georgia's Unbefriended Elders-- Views from the Probate Bench was utilized as a reference for the article. View the article here.