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Caring for a parent who has dementia comes with many legal issues

Children rarely anticipate that they will one day need to care for their elderly parents. Still, this is inevitable for many families--especially for adult children whose parents have Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or another disease that induces dementia. If your parent has one of these illnesses, it may soon be time to step in as their caretaker.

Many people find this overwhelming, particularly because of the numerous legal decisions that inevitably occur. One way to make these issues easier to handle is to prepare for them in advance. If you are caring for an adult who has dementia, you may want to learn about some of the legal issues that you and your parent could face in the future.

Power of attorney

Someone who has been diagnosed with dementia may still be legally capable of making their own decisions. As the disease progresses, however, it could be necessary for someone else to step in and make decisions on their behalf. Adults who have diminished mental capacity are often not legally able to enter into contracts or make some types of financial transactions. Entering into a durable power of attorney can allow you or another trusted family member to make legal, financial and medical decisions for a parent who has dementia.

Driving ability

There are a few other tasks that older adults may no longer be capable of performing if they have diminished mental ability. One of these is operating a vehicle. Some older adults are able to drive a car safely, but others cannot. Although it is still possible for adults who have dementia to pass a driver's exam, it may be necessary for you and your family members to actively enforce a no-driving rule for your parents. Curtailing their independence may be emotionally difficult, but might be necessary for protecting other drivers.

Estate planning

A written will can be crucial to protecting your parent's assets in the event that dementia sets in. Without a will, your parent's estate will be handled by the court when they pass away, and there is no guarantee that it will be distributed as your parent would have wished. Now, mental competence issues can have impacts on will validity. If your parent has been deemed mentally incompetent and has not yet written a will, you may want to speak with an estate planning attorney to gain a firmer understanding of the situation.

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