We see a lot of families in our office who cannot assist their loved one who has Alzheimer's Disease or dementia with financial and health care matters because no one has the legal authority to act on behalf of the loved one. Often by the time the caregiver calls us, it is too late for us to help the loved one. This is because the mental capacity and cognition level of the loved one with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia have deteriorated too much for him or her to be able to sign any legal documents. Because one of the symptoms of the disease is combativeness, the loved one will often refuse to sign legal documents, even if she or he still has the mental capacity to do so.
In addition, at one time, it may have made sense for spouses to name each other as their legal representatives to make financial and health care decisions for the other, but when a dementia diagnosis is made, the healthy spouse usually should revise his or her legal documents and remove the diagnosed spouse from having any legal authority. This can be gut-wrenching but necessary. After all, how can the diagnosed spouse make quality decisions for another when he or she can't even take care of himself or herself?
If you or your loved one shows signs of Alzheimer's Disease or dementia, we can offer guidance about the legal and financial consequences of dementia. As soon as a diagnosis is made, please call us; waiting to obtain legal assistance until the disease has progressed is very unwise.