Question: “I had noticed that my mom was starting to be a little more forgetful and having some trouble caring for herself. Mom’s neurologist determined that my mom is in the early stages of dementia. What do I do now?”
We sympathize with our clients that have to navigate this type of challenge. The best first step is to be proactive. You’ll want to assemble a team around mom to make sure she is well cared for and safe. The first two appointments that should be made are with an elder law attorney and a geriatric care manager (GCM), who are also known as aging life care advocates.
Meeting with an Elder Law Attorney
If your mother already has estate plan documents in place (most importantly a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy), you will want to have an elder law attorney review the validity of the documents. They will also verify that the documents include the proper authorities that allow you or another trusted individual to effectively help your mother.
If your mother has no documents currently in place, or any existing documents need to be updated, your elder law attorney will advise your mother to complete them as soon as possible. The attorney may request a letter from your mother’s neurologist, or other treating physician, stating that she has the mental capacity to sign estate plan documents.
Note: There is a common misconception about individuals with memory issues signing estate plan documents. It is common for folks to think if someone still has the physical ability to sign, they can be asked to sign any document. This is not the case. The individual with memory issues must be able to review and understand the nature of the document they are signing.
Additionally, it’s possible for someone to have the mental capacity to understand estate plan documents but may have lost the physical ability to sign. There are special notary clauses made for these individuals, so they can still sign a document by making a mark or an “X”.
Geriatric Care Managers aka Aging Life Care Advocates
Even if your mother does not need services right away, it’s always a good idea to get a GCM involved early. They can get to know mom, her wishes, and make periodic assessments about her needs. If care is needed, they will be able to help implement a plan. They can also make recommendations about different assisted living facilities and/or nursing homes that may be appropriate in the future. Having a GCM involved can really help alleviate the burden on you.
Elder law attorneys and GCM’s always make a good team when a loved one is diagnosed with a memory issue or other chronic illness.
Founded by a nurse attorney and with offices in Acton, Burlington, and Sudbury, Massachusetts, Generations Law Group has been helping families for over 20 years navigate the complex areas of estate planning and elder law to inform and protect loved ones of every generation.