As your parents age, you are probably going to notice changes in their health. In some instances, these changes may include a decrease in cognitive functioning due to dementia. When a person has dementia, symptoms can range in severity and sometimes advance quickly. If your mother or father has been diagnosed with this condition, you will want to know: What are my options for my parent with dementia?
When you first learn of your parent’s dementia diagnosis, you are going to want to work with them and their medical provider to find out more about their condition. Getting details from their doctor can give you vital information about their illness and what to expect in the future. If possible, have your parent sign a consent form that will allow you and their physician to discuss their health and treatment. After you learn more about their condition and what to expect, you can take the necessary steps to help protect their interests.
If your parent is able to assist with planning, it would be best to help them find an experienced estate planning attorney. Their counsel can help evaluate their circumstances and plan for the future.
Your parent should have two essential devices in place as soon as possible: 1) An Advance Health Care Directive and 2) a power of attorney for financial matters.
Advance Health Care Directive
In California, individuals can have an Advance Health Care Directive to assist in their treatment should they become incapacitated. This essential legal device allows its creator to provide specific medical care instructions for their clinicians to follow during incapacity. The Advance Health Care Directive also enables its creator to designate a medical decision-maker to ensure their treatment instructions are followed and to make care decisions on their behalf.
If your parent’s dementia advances to the point that they can no longer make informed decisions, having an Advance Health Care Directive will be essential to maintaining continuity in their care. Without this crucial device, your family may have to go to court to have a conservator designated to make health care decisions on your parent’s behalf.
Power of Attorney for Financial Matters
Another key estate planning device your parent will need is a power of attorney (POA) for financial matters. The California Probate Code recognizes two forms of POAs: durable and springing.
A durable POA can go into effect the moment it is signed or at the time your parent becomes incapacitated. If your parent signed a durable POA before incapacity, the instrument would remain in effect even if they were to become incapacitated. A springing power of attorney becomes effective when a specific event or contingency occurs. If your parent wanted this device in place to become active if they were to become incapacitated, they could use a springing power of attorney.
Under California law, both durable and springing powers of attorney allow their creators to designate someone to assume responsibility for managing their “property, personal care, or any other matter.” If a power of attorney is created for the purpose of financial management, your parent could designate someone to attend to their accounts, bills, and other fiscal interests in the event of incapacitation. Powers of attorney can be general, meaning they give the authorized person broad authority. However, these devices can also be limited to specific tasks and areas.
If your parent’s condition and symptoms have advanced to the point that they can no longer attend to their personal care or finances, they may need to have a conservator appointed to help protect their health and interests. There are two types of conservators: 1) A conservator of the person and 2) a conservator of the estate.
In California, conservatorships are overseen by a probate court. Often those in need of a conservatorship require both types of conservators, and it’s common for the same person to serve in these roles. If you believe your parent with dementia will require a conservator, you should consult with an experienced California conservatorship attorney to discuss your concerns and learn more about the conservatorship process.
At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are California estate planning and conservatorship attorneys with the experience you need to help you and your parent plan for the future. We can help you evaluate your circumstances and determine the best solutions for your situation. Please contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment today.