How do I know if my elderly parent has dementia – and is incapacitated?

It’s tough to watch our parents grow older. The moms and dads who were once strong and in charge often seem to change and need us more as they enter their final years. It can be worrisome, especially if they live alone and handle all of their health and medical decisions.

There might come a time to enact a durable power of attorney for your parents, especially if one or both suffers from dementia. A durable power of attorney can, in additional to handling all financial decisions, authorize medical care. That includes consent to proceed with or terminate all medical and surgical procedures on your parent’s’ behalf, including an agreement that falls under the Life-Prolonging Procedures Act of Florida.

How do you know if your parent has dementia, and therefore is incapacitated and needs you enact the durable power of attorney? Does your parent suffer from dementia — or confusion due to old age? There are ways to tell between the two, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

  • In normal aging, the body and brains slows down, though intelligence remains stable.  Older people are less physically and mentally flexible, and they need time to process information in many cases. Memory changes occur as well, and it’s common to struggle to remember names of people, places and other things. Normal aging, though, does not interfere with daily life.
  • Dementia describes a set of symptoms that may be caused by a number of different brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, that cause mental decline severe enough to disrupt daily life. Dementia affects core brain functions, including short-term memory,  the ability to write or speak, the ability to understand and use symbols, maps, etc. and the ability to correctly judge where objects are and the ability to plan, reason, solve problems and focus on a task.

Whether your parent or parents suffer from dementia or are simply growing older, a durable power of attorney can protect them. You can do it now, while they are still healthy.  Under Florida law, a durable power of attorney is signed and goes into effect immediately. There is no waiting period, including waiting until the person or loved one suffers incapacitation and cannot make financial and healthcare decisions on their own.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

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