After Mary’s father was admitted to the hospital, Mary visited her mother at home. It wasn’t long before she noticed things weren’t quite right. On the coffee table was a stack of unopened mail and bills, some past due. Her parents had never missed a bill payment! The refrigerator was nearly bare. What had they been eating? Even worse, Mom’s medication bottles lay empty on the kitchen table. Suddenly, reality hit Mary, and hard – her aging parents were struggling with the tasks of daily living…one of the early warning signs of dementia. Should Mom stop driving? Who would care for them both when Dad came home? Could they continue living on their own? Mary felt scared and overwhelmed.
For Mary, and many like her, it can be shocking to realize your parents, who have always been there for you, now need you to be there for them. And if you live far away, work long hours, or have your own family to care for, the challenges increase.
Dementia Warning Signs
• Relying on memory helpers
• Trouble finding words
• Struggling to complete familiar actions
• Confusion about time, place or people
• Misplacing familiar objects
• Onset of new depression or irritability
• Making bad decisions
• Personality changes
• Loss of interest in important responsibilities
• Seeing or hearing things
• Expressing false beliefs
(Source: Alzheimer’s Foundation of America)
Fortunately, options exist to help support seniors with dementia and their caregivers. In-home service agencies can provide care from simple companionship to nursing, for a few hours a day or overnight. Geriatric Care Managers can assess seniors’ needs, from the physical, emotional, and cognitive to the practical, and offer solid solutions. For example, The Area Agency on Aging can help to locate senior resources. AAA provides a list of transportation options. Adult day care and senior centers provide activities, meals, and help with hygiene and medication. Your community or church may offer assistance with transportation. Your local chapter of The Alzheimer’s Association provides peer counseling, educational seminars, and research updates, and local senior housing may cater to seniors with dementia, providing ongoing care as dementia progresses.
In Missouri, dementia resources are vast. In fact, Missouri is a world leader in Alzheimer’s research, awarding federal and foundation grants totaling more than $22 million in 2011 alone, with increases planned for future years, and the first National Alzheimer’s Plan calling for increased support for research, awareness, education and outreach, and caregiver support.
Legalities of Dementia
Do your parents have a will or living trust? A Durable Power of Attorney for healthcare? An advance directive or living will? These legal documents and others detail one’s wishes for future medical care and financial protection when dementia progresses to later stages.
If these documents are not in place, encourage your parents to speak with a qualified estate attorney as soon as possible. Dementia is progressive; in the early stages, your parents may still possess “legal capacity”, the ability to make your own decisions and appreciate the consequences of those decisions. Once your parent no longer has legal capacity to sign a legal document, making decisions for them becomes far more difficult. The setting up of legal guardianship, which allows you to make financial, healthcare, and other decisions on behalf of your parent with dementia, can be frustrating, complex, and costly.
An individual diagnosed with dementia will need a good deal of help and support in the future. Planning in advance ensures peace of mind and smart decision making. Speak with a qualified eldercare attorney in Missouri today.