It is never easy when someone you love is battling dementia. If their cognitive abilities have been affected, you may be approaching a time when your loved one should transition to memory care.
But who makes these decisions if the family member’s memory has declined? If they have a living will or had medical decisions previously settled by a court document, you know your loved one’s wishes, and it is up to you to legally follow their arrangements.
But if you suddenly need an adjustment to the legal documents, can someone with dementia sign legal documents?
Your loved one may still be able to sign legal documents, even with a dementia diagnosis, if deemed mentally competent.
When Is a Person Deemed Mentally Competent?
It is important for individuals wanting to sign legal documents to clearly understand their assets and beneficiaries.
They should be able to recall their family members and future generations who may inherit their property.
And they must be able to express their wishes and intentions regarding their estate plan.
Furthermore, they need to comprehend the legal documents they are signing and how everything fits together to achieve their desired outcomes.
If they can do these things, then it stands to reason that they are still mentally competent and can remain in charge of their estate or legacy planning.
Who Makes Decisions for a Family Member with Dementia?
Sometimes people do not create end-of-life plans or portable medical orders to deal with their memory issues and other health problems as dementia takes over.
This can be problematic and may require a close family member, guardian, or friend to take on the agent role in a power of attorney capacity.
However, as long as the person with dementia has the legal capacity (the ability to understand and appreciate the consequences of their actions), they should take part in legal planning.
While preparing these documents can be stressful, not having them can create problems such as uncertainty about who can make decisions or somebody deciding something that the person living with dementia would not want.
Power of Attorney
The power of attorney document and the agent (their choice of who gets to make decisions on their behalf) allows a person to make financial and other decisions when the person with dementia is no longer able.
The agent should be chosen carefully and have a thorough conversation with the principal about what the responsibility entails. In addition, a successor agent or agents should be named if the original agent is unavailable to take on the role.
Also, power of attorney documents should be written to be long-standing, meaning they are valid even after your loved one can no longer make their own decisions. Legal guardianship comes under the agent’s care.
Once the principal cannot make decisions, the agent is authorized to manage the principal’s income and assets. The agent is responsible for acting according to the person’s best interest.
Planning ahead is vital. Discuss with your loved one today so that plans are well-known and follow what they want.
Considerations for Legal Documents
A judge must consider 6 pillars of capacity when stating whether the principal has the mental ability to sign official documents or whether it is too late to make these decisions since a plan has not been in place.
The 6 pillars of capacity are:
- Medical condition
- Everyday functioning
- Values and preferences
- Risk and level of supervision
- Means to enhance capacity
Each of these aspects must be considered, and if the principal has become too far gone when it comes to their dementia, they may not be able to make any further decisions themselves. And whoever is granted power of attorney can then make these choices.
Consultation with a Lawyer
The legalities of creating an end-of-life plan and a living will should be discussed with a legal professional like a lawyer. They can help your loved ones get the care they need, as well as for children, assets, and property cared for by the agent.
It cannot be stressed enough that power of attorney and a will should be created to avoid disagreements regarding the passing of a person with dementia. It allows for peace of mind and lets your loved one know that they and their legacy will be taken care of.
They can also rest knowing their medical wishes are seen to, whether they need the care of assisted living or memory care in the future. Also, they can decide what will happen if they need a do not resuscitate (DNR) or other major decisions to do with their health.
Start Planning Today
You should always be prepared for the worst, and the best way to do this is to have a trusted person to make decisions when the person with dementia no longer can.
By creating legal documents, like a power of attorney or a living will, you can help create a plan to care for your loved one before their dementia has progressed.