Today in the United States, the average life expectancy has increased to a span of nearly 79 years. As more Americans continue to live longer, families are increasingly being forced to consider and address questions and concerns related to the health, safety and financial security of aging loved ones. In addition to physical health problems, a significant percentage of elderly adults also experience a decline in cognitive functioning.
Researchers believe that an estimated nine million Americans are currently living with dementia with as many as one in three U.S. adults dying with some form of the disease. While Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease also fall under the umbrella term.
While the severity and progression of symptoms may vary from individual to individual, all forms of dementia are categorized by "physical changes in the brain," that result in a "loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life."
Common Symptoms of Dementia
- Memory loss
- Confusion (specifically related to time and place)
- Difficulty with communication and comprehension
- Changes in mood and personality
- Trouble completing everyday tasks
In cases where family members are concerned about a loved one's physical safety and his or her ability to manage finances, it's important to discuss these types of concerns and possible legal remedies with an elder law attorney. An attorney who handles elder law, estate planning and long-term care planning matters can answer questions and provide advice on how best to provide for a loved one's physical safety, financial security and long-term care needs as well as preparing the necessary legal documents.
Guardianships For Loved Ones With Dementia
If you are concerned about the mental capacity of an aging parent or relative and his or her safety or ability to manage finances, an elder law attorney can provide advice and guidance. By obtaining legal guardianship over a loved one's person and estate, you are granted the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of and for the benefit of your family member.
The process of obtaining legal guardianship is complex and can be challenging. An elder law attorney can prepare and file the guardianship petition as well as represent you at the hearing. Additionally, your attorney can provide ongoing assistance if concerns or problems related to an existing guardianship arise.