Aging Parents, Dementia, And Decision Making

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Aging Parents, Dementia, And Decision Making

by | Mar 24, 2020

If you have aging parents, it’s not always easy to determine whether memory and cognitive problems are the results of aging or something more serious, like dementia. One day, your dad might be fine and the next day, you find the TV remote in the freezer. Is something going on? Or is he just getting older? 
Regardless of the cause, things are likely to get complicated. Eventually, the members of the older generation enter a gray area where they may not be able to make the necessary decisions to manage their own homes and finances. This usually happens gradually. People with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may slowly lose their ability to make decisions. It can be hard to tell when it’s time to intervene. 

Alzheimer’s can impact this judgment early in the disease. Even if the person looks and feels fine and seems normal, people experiencing even mild forms of dementia may not be able to tell when something is off or if someone is trying to take advantage of them financially. 

This gray area often causes a lot of tension in families. Some family members argue that mom or dad is fine and that they’ve always been able to take of themselves. Others may find it difficult to broach the subject of taking control away from a parent who’s always been so independent. The senior family member will also likely put up a bit of a fight for fear of losing their independence or wondering if their children are just trying to take their money. 

Preventing Financial Abuse
Financial abuse is another potential issue that can arise in this situation. Caregivers, scam artists, and even some family members may try to take advantage of someone with cognitive impairment. In the early stages, picking up on this is extremely difficult as the impairment isn’t obvious but it’s important to know that cognitive changes can be happening without any outward signs of difficulty.

What’s the best approach to handling these problems? Seniors should appoint someone as their financial power of attorney so that they have help from someone they trust. If they wait too long and no longer have the ability to make financial decisions, someone will need to apply for conservatorship instead which is a much more complicated process that takes a lot of time and costs a fair amount of money. 

Third-Party Intervention
In some cases, a third party can get involved to determine whether or not the senior can make financial decisions on their own. This is a good way to get a resolution by mitigating the tension between family members. If a neutral third party concludes that the senior parent is unable to care for themselves, it is a much different situation than family members arguing their opinions. 

Testing can be conducted by neuropsychologists to determine the senior’s condition and whether or not their decision-making capabilities are intact. The decision of a qualified professional can answer a lot of the question’s family members may have.

This is a difficult situation and fighting among families makes it even worse. Regular family meetings should be held to make sure everyone has a voice and can communicate their concerns. If necessary, a mediator or other neutral person can attend to make sure the meeting is productive and that the result is what is actually best for the senior parent.


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