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Addressing The Legal And Health Care Needs Of Loved Ones With Dementia

dementia and care for seniors

With the aging baby-boomer generation tending to their parents’ needs and starting to experience the inevitable symptoms of aging themselves, it is critical that families address the impending legal needs of their loved ones sooner rather than later.

Management of care for seniors with memory loss is one of the most disconcerting issues to deal with if put off until such time as one is unable to make a decision.

According to the latest statistics, “An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2018. This number includes an estimated 5.5 million people age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.”

Why Early Planning Is Important

Making legal plans in advance is important for several reasons. One of the most important is that early planning allows the person with dementia to be involved and express his or her wishes for future care and decisions. This eliminates guesswork for families and allows for the person with dementia to designate decision makers on his or her behalf. Early planning also allows time to work through the complex legal and financial issues that are involved in long-term care.

What To Include In Legal Planning

First and foremost, you must make plans for health care and long-term care. Many older adults will require assisted living, either in home or in a facility. Those issues can be addressed, and plans can be put in place to carry them out according to the wishes of the one who will be cared for.

If there are assets, plans must be made for all holdings and properties. You’ll want to make sure their assets are protected and are working as effectively as possible.

Next is the naming of another person to make decisions on behalf of the person with dementia. When an individual loses the ability to understand and appreciate the consequences of his or her actions and to make rational decisions, someone else must make those decisions. In the case of age-related dementia, one may be able to understand and still have legal capacity. However, in the case of Alzheimer’s, an individual may not be capable.
You may be able to complete certain legal documents without a lawyer but getting legal advice and services from an attorney who specializes in elder law can be especially helpful.

Review Legal Documents

Once you have taken care of the legal needs of a loved one prior to any signs of dementia, it helps to review the documents from time to time. It helps also to take inventory of existing legal documents. Verify whether living wills, trusts and powers of attorney were signed before the person was diagnosed. The person may no longer remember having completed them. Even if legal documents were completed in the past, it is important to review them with another person for necessary corrections and/or updates.

As the person ages, if you have concerns about their ability to understand, ask for medical advice. A doctor may be able to assist in determining the level of a person’s mental ability.