Your parents love and protect you from your first breath on this earth. As your parents get older, they may start to need you to care for them – especially if they begin to have memory issues. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently more than 6 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s or dementia. By the year 2050, they estimate that number will increase to more than 12 million people. If your parent suffers from dementia, it can be difficult for the entire family. In addition to the medical needs of your loved one, you must also consider the many other issues that you must handle at this time.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a broad term to describe a major neurocognitive disorder. It is a group of symptoms that are due to a variety of disorders. Dementia affects a person’s memory, attention, learning, language, and other parts of cognitive abilities. It occurs when parts of the brain are damaged or deteriorate. The person may lose their cognitive function and ability to think and reason over time. There are a variety of diseases or disorders that may be classified as dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common and most well-known of the diseases that cause symptoms of dementia.
Generally, dementia is progressive and the symptoms may worsen over time. Some forms of dementia can be reversed, if they are due to alcohol abuse, tumors, hematomas, or a few others. Most often, there is no viable treatment to stop the onset or progression of dementia. There are varying stages of dementia varying from stage one with no noticeable impairment to stage 7 with very severe decline. As the adult child of a parent with dementia, you will need to take legal steps to oversee their financial and other matters.
Legal Steps to Take
It is always better to discuss the legal matters with your parents while they are still able to do so. Together you can determine the best way to handle the various matters that will come up later if they are no longer able to do so on their own. You may choose to set up a living trust, which can include a variety of documents:
Advance Healthcare Directive
An advance healthcare directive is a legal document that provides details about how to handle medical issues. The directive is particularly important in the case of a dementia patient because they may be unable to make these types of decisions on their own when they are needed.
It is helpful to be able to take care of the basic finances of a parent with dementia. You can accomplish this by having your parents add you to their accounts as a second legal proxy. If you notice that a parent is having difficulties paying bills or making purchases, it is best to step in and provide assistance.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney allows someone else to legally take over the decisions and financial management of another. With power of attorney, you can pay bills, handle debts, and take care of all the typical financial decisions that the parent normally would.
How Do You Get Power of Attorney Over a Parent with Dementia?
A person can only legally sign a document such as power of attorney if they understand it. If they are in the latter stages of dementia, this may not be possible. In that situation, you are not automatically in charge of the parent’s finances. You must go to court to obtain legal authorization. To do so, you must prove that your parent is incompetent. Generally, the court may appoint an attorney to represent the person with dementia. You will need to attend a hearing to provide evidence and testimony that the parent has dementia and is incompetent. Once declared incompetent, the court will be able to appoint you to oversee their finances and other legal matters.
When a parent has dementia, it can be a stressful and traumatic time, but it requires your immediate attention. Do not hesitate to contact our legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. at (608) 784-8310 or by email for a consultation.