Dementia is a condition that affects a person’s cognition and memory and can interfere with daily living. Memory care in senior living communities helps individuals by offering seniors with dementia an active, engaged, and independent lifestyle.
A person with dementia who is able to communicate and understands can sign legal documents, but may require an assessment by a doctor to determine if they can make their own decisions.
While your loved one may be able to manage their finances and legal affairs early on with dementia, they may need to rely on others to make decisions or sign legal documents as the disease progresses.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term that describes a decline in cognitive function, including memory loss and difficulty with language, problem-solving, and other thinking skills. It’s a progressive condition that affects your ability to perform daily activities and can lead to changes in mood and behavior.
Dementia results from damage to nerve cells in the brain caused by various underlying conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke. Age and family history are risk factors for developing dementia. There is no cure for dementia, but treatments and therapies can help manage symptoms and slow it’s progression.
How Does Dementia Affect Decision Making?
Dementia symptoms can vary depending on the cause. However, cognitive changes that may affect the decision-making abilities of a person with dementia can include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty communicating
- Getting lost
- Difficulty reasoning or problem-solving
- Difficulty handling complex tasks
- Difficulty with planning and organizing
People with dementia may need to have an evaluation by a medical professional to determine if they can make informed decisions, live independently, manage their finances, make a will, or sign legal documents.
Dementia & Signing Legal Documents
Legal documents safeguard the wishes of someone with dementia and give others the authority to make decisions when they no longer can because of the disease’s progression. If there are any doubts or concerns, it’s best to seek the advice of a lawyer or other trusted professional.
Planning for legal documents in advance while your loved one is in good health can help with legal matters later. These can outline their wishes and decisions, including health, long-term care, finances, and power of attorney.
Power of Attorney
Not having a power of attorney can create uncertainty and confusion about who makes the decisions for a loved one with dementia. The power of attorney documents allows the principal (person with dementia) to name an individual to make legal decisions, including financial and other decisions when they no longer can.
Power of attorney for health care is a legal document that names the person chosen to make all the decisions related to the health care of a loved one with dementia after they no longer can. It’s also known as an advanced directive. Decisions can include the following:
- Choosing doctors and other health care providers
- Types of medical treatment
- Care settings
- End-of-life decisions
The living will is like an advanced directive. It states how a loved one with dementia wishes to receive treatment in certain medical situations, such as artificial life support.
A standard will is different from a living will in that it identifies the chosen person who manages the estate and the assets included in the estate. While the person has this authority, they do not have legal authority when a loved one is alive. Having a signed will in place while your loved one can make decisions is helpful.
A living trust is another way for a loved one with dementia to provide instructions on how they would like their estate handled. A grantor or trustor can name themselves or another person or institution, such as a bank, as a trustee to invest and manage a loved one’s assets.
Guardianship or Conservatorship
A guardian or conservator is a person appointed by a court to make decisions about a person’s care and property because they’re no longer able, the family can’t agree, or there is no family. The process to acquire guardianship takes time as it involves enlisting the help of an attorney and testifying in court.
The guardian can make health care, financial, and day-to-day decisions. It’s best to consult an elder care attorney for help as rules vary by state.
Receiving a dementia diagnosis for a loved one can be hard on everyone involved. But seeking advice on advanced care planning, including senior living or signing legal documents, can help before it becomes more challenging and their ability to make decisions remains.