Act quickly to help a parent with dementia. When a parent starts to show signs of mental decline, your first priority should be ensuring they are cared for medically. There are also financial concerns that need to be addressed, however, such as preventing a parent from being taken advantage of when their monetary decisions are no longer sound. An elder law attorney can help your family with both sides of the situation.

Discussing Power of Attorney With Your Elderly Parent

One of the best ways to help your aging parent suffering from the beginning stages of dementia is to gain power of attorney and take control of financial matters and healthcare decisions. Drafting either kind of power of attorney should be handled with an experienced elder law professional's help to address your family’s specific situation and keep your parent’s wishes in mind.

The subject should be broached with your parent using an open and honest line of communication, knowing ahead of time it may be a difficult conversation. While dealing with dementia may be an unpleasant topic, it is better to make these decisions as far in advance as possible to avoid serious repercussions.

It’s important to understand that there isn’t always a light switch moment where one day your parent can care for themselves and the next day they can’t. It's more likely your loved one will experience an extended period of ups and downs. This process can be complicated by the fact that your mother or father may be keenly aware of their ongoing mental changes and become resistant to losing independence.

If these legal decision-making issues aren’t handled while your parent can still make decisions for themselves, however, you will instead have to go through the guardianship process. This involves making a case to the court that a parent needs a guardian appointed to make decisions on their behalf. Obtaining guardianship is a lengthy process that can be costly, and you may still need to acquire permission from a court before making changes like moving your parent into a nursing home or selling real estate.

Other Important Considerations

While meeting with a lawyer ahead of time to avoid court guardianship problems, there are other issues aside from the power of attorney that aging parents should also be sure to discuss. An attorney can help your parent go through the estate planning process while they are still lucid and capable of making decisions by:

  • Drafting medical directives if your parent has specific wishes on how to be treated.
  • Ensuring your parent can afford a nursing home stay if they require around-the-clock care.
  • Reversing any gifts given in the last five years that will prevent Medicaid from covering nursing home costs.
  • Setting up trusts if you have special needs family members or minor siblings.

Plan Ahead to Protect Your Family, Contact Our Experienced Wilmington Elder Law Attorney Today

Is your parent ready to start preparing for the future by granting power of attorney or making an estate plan? Send us a message with the basic details of your situation and we’ll get in touch to find out how we can best help your family.

John J. Peck
Wilmington Elder Law, Estate Planning & Asset Protection Attorney
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