We know how hard it can be when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia. On top of the emotional impact, there are also more practical things you suddenly have to worry about, like the legalities of the situation.
Dementia Is a Progressive Disease
Dementia is a progressive condition. Although they may seem fine at first, over time, your loved one will lose more and more cognitive functioning. Later, they won’t be able to make decisions on their own. More importantly, they may get to a point when they’re no longer able to put you or another trusted person in charge of their decisions. This is hard to face, but it’s so much better for all involved to take care of these things sooner rather than later.
The Conversation About Dementia and Memory Care
The conversation about dementia and memory care is never easy, but you can save a lot of stress and worry by dealing with it now. It’s important that you make sure that your loved one is aware of what being diagnosed means and that they’re prepared for what the future will bring.
Planning Ahead for Dementia
Some families choose to work with an elder law attorney, a lawyer who specializes in laws that commonly impact seniors. An elder law attorney can help with:
- Disability and special needs planning.
- Long-term care planning.
- Estate planning and settlement.
- Protection against elder abuse, neglect, and fraud.
An elder law attorney’s expertise and insight can be very helpful, but, whether or not you choose to reach out for legal help, there are a few things you want to be sure to address when planning for the future:
Your loved one will need to make sure a trusted person has access to their:
- Banking and credit card account numbers and passwords.
- A summary of recurring monthly bills.
- All income information (Social Security, pensions, rental properties, other businesses, annuities, etc).
The caregiver or other trusted individual needs to have access to all insurance policies (medical, auto home, long-term care, disability, and life).
Deeds, Mortgage or Other Ownership Documents
They also need copies of or access to any deeds, mortgage information, or other ownership documents.
Directive to Physicians (Living Will)
A directive to physicians, also known as a “living will,” is a legal form that communicates how someone wants medical treatment handled for them in the future, but only if the condition is irreversible or terminal. A directive to physicians speaks for someone when they cannot speak for themself.
Last Will and Testament
After a dementia diagnosis, you’ll need to find out if your loved one has a last will and testament. If they do, it will need to be checked. Is it current? Have the terms and recipients been updated to reflect any changes?
Although it’s painful to think about, dementia often leads to a shortened lifespan. Having these documents up-to-date is crucial when it comes to making sure that your loved one’s end-of-life wishes are recognized.
Power of Attorney
And, of course, you’ll want to make sure that yourself or another trusted person has been granted a power of attorney for your loved one.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives someone the legal power to act on someone else’s behalf. The person who’s been granted the authority is called the agent. The person who signs a POA, making someone else their agent, is called the principal. A POA can only be authorized by someone who’s found to be mentally competent, which is why it’s so important for individuals diagnosed with dementia to create a POA before the condition progresses.
A power of attorney can:
- Be limited to a specific activity, such as closing the sale of a home, or it can be general.
- Give the agent temporary or permanent authority to act on the principal’s behalf.
- Take effect immediately, or only when a potential future event happens, usually a determination that the individual is unable to act for themself due to mental or physical disability. This is called a “springing” POA.
- Be revoked, but most states require written notice of revocation from the principal.
Someone may give another person POA over certain aspects of their life for various reasons. They might be deployed or traveling out of the country for an extended period, or they may be giving someone a conditional POA, only valid if a future event causes them to be unable to handle their affairs on their own.
A POA is accepted in all states, but the rules and requirements differ from state to state.
What Are the Different Types of Power of Attorney?
There are different types of powers of attorney. There are 5 kinds of power of attorney in Texas:
1. General Power of Attorney
A general POA gives the agent the authority to act in a broad range of matters – entering contracts, selling property, spending money, etc. A general power of attorney ends if the principal becomes mentally or physically disabled or incapacitated.
2. Limited or Special Power of Attorney
A limited or special power of attorney gives the agent the authority to handle a specific matter or for a limited period of time.
3. Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a general power of attorney but continues if the principal becomes mentally or physically disabled or incapacitated.
4. Springing Power of Attorney
A springing power of attorney gives the agent authority only if and when the principal becomes disabled or incapacitated.
5. Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney gives the agent the authority to make medical treatment decisions for the principal if they become mentally or physically unable to make their own decisions.
The best POAs for individuals with dementia in Texas include the durable POA and the springing POA.
Does My Loved One Need a Power of Attorney?
A POA is a document that is beneficial for pretty much everyone to have. It’s scary to think about, but you really never know what might happen. If you were to be incapacitated in some way, it would be best for you and your family if someone you trust were automatically put in charge of your affairs.
However, most people only create a POA when they get older or are diagnosed with a terminal disease or a condition that can cause incapacitation – such as dementia. Individuals with dementia definitely need to create a POA, and as soon as possible.
You Don’t Have To Go Through This Alone
It can be overwhelming when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia. Many people experience a range of feelings after hearing the diagnosis – anger, sadness, guilt, frustration – and that’s ok. But you don’t have to go through this alone!
We know that making the decision to transition someone you love to memory care is never easy, but we want to help you and your family through this difficult time. If you think it’s the right time for your loved one to make the move to memory care, or that they might make the transition in the future, contact an owner to learn more about Sundara and tour our beautiful community.