Advice Market Blog
What Do I Do if I Can’t Make Decisions for Myself Due to Mental Degeneration?
June 14, 2016
Having a decision-making disability means that you can’t understand what others are telling you about your situation and the different choices that you could make. For example, Dementia, as described by Alzheimer’s Australia, is a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not a single disease but multiple diseases that share a common effect on an individual’s thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Dementia is considered such a serious issue due to the effects it has on brain functions which affect the person’s normal social or working life, often requiring external care to help complete tasks they normally could have completed alone.
Although Dementia is most common after the age of 65, it does present in people as early as 40 and 50, and can occasionally occur in people even younger. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which damages the brain, resulting in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour.
Due to the severity of the disorder, people are often unprepared to deal with the legal and financial consequences of a serious illness such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, legal, and medical experts encourage people recently diagnosed with serious illness (particularly those that cause a decline in mental health) to examine their legal, financial, and health care arrangements as soon as possible. Basic legal and financial instruments such as a will, a living trust, and advance directives, are available to ensure that the person’s late-stage or end-of-life health care and financial decisions are carried out as they saw fit when they were still in sound physical and mental health.
Sufferers of Alzheimers disease will gradually lose the ability to think clearly, and affect their ability to meaningfully participate in decision making, and thus early legal and financial planning are of vital importance. Although difficult questions can arise, advance planning will help not only people with Alzheimer’s, but also their families, by making their wishes clear about their health care and financial arrangements.
Before you begin this process, be sure to retain the services of a lawyer. Time is of the essence, and this is not the time to try and brush up on your own legal skills. You need an expert. It’s important to understand that laws vary by State, and changes in situation—for instance, a divorce, relocation, or death in the family—can influence how documents are prepared and maintained. A lawyer will help interpret different State laws and suggest ways to ensure that the person’s wishes are carried out.
What advance directives or financial arrangements need to be made?
Advance directives for financial and estate management must be created while the person still has the ‘legal capacity’ to make decisions. These directives may include:
- A living will that may cover financial, personal and medical decisions, and generally comes into play once a doctor decides that a person is incapacitated and unable to communicate his or her desires clearly.
- A standard will which indicates how a person’s assets and estate will be distributed upon death. It can also specify: arrangements for care of minors, gifts, trusts to manage the estate as well as funeral and / or burial arrangements.
- An enduring power of guardianship which is the naming of a person who you choose to make decisions about your lifestyle and medical treatment if you lose Decisions may include where you live and who you live with, medical, dental and other health treatment, services, and contact with others.
- A durable power of attorney for finances, which names someone to make financial decisions when the person with Alzheimer’s disease can no longer make these decisions clearly. The attorney can make decisions about pension, everyday expenses and bills, and sale or lease of property. Assigning this role early on can avoid future court actions which may take away control of financial affairs.
- A living trust which provides instructions about the person’s estate and appoints someone as trustee, to hold title to property and funds for the beneficiaries. The trustee follows these instructions after the person can no longer can manage his or her own
First and foremost, if you are concerned about a parent or loved one, but are unsure about some of the signs and symptoms, don’t wait. Have them visit a doctor and be sure to ask them questions to gauge their state of mind. If you have a loved one slipping into a state of dementia, you need to protect them from making unsafe decisions that could leave them in an unstable financial situation.
As you can see, there are a lot of financial and legal considerations and forms to be filled. Be sure to take on legal and financial support to help you and your family through this difficult time. Advice Market offers a range of legal and financial advisors who can assist you and your family to make the best plans for the future. Visit here to start your search.
The information provided is intended as a guide only and does not take into consideration your personal situation, needs and objectives and should not be considered as advice of any nature.