As people age, they become more prone to dementia.
Dementia is a medical condition requiring treatment. Emotionally, it is a difficult thing for a family to deal with. The condition also raises significant legal and financial issues.
It is important to recognize if you or a loved one are starting to develop dementia. Early detection of Alzheimer’s or other dementia can buy a family both valuable time and an opportunity to help the patient get their affairs in order.
It is important to remember that dementia is very different from the normal process of getting older. People occasionally getting confused, forgetting things and the like are frequently of little concern.
Here are some early warning signs of dementia:
- Memory loss, confusion or communication problems that interfere with daily life: Occasional forgetfulness that people eventually realize and correct is normal. But, if a person is consistently forgetting details or words and cannot function in daily life, they may need to see a doctor.
- Poor decision-making: Anyone can have a lapse in judgment. That said, if a loved one starts consistently neglecting important business matters, mis-managing money or starts showing signs of poor hygiene, it is a warning sign.
- Social problems and personality changes: There can be many reasons why a person withdraws from society or may have a change in their mood. If other causes like depression are not the answer, a family should consider if dementia is a possibility.
What should I do for a person who is suffering from dementia?
Every person who is suffering from the early stages of faces different medical, financial and legal circumstances.
With the help of their families as they need it, they should make sure they understand their options.
In general, someone with early dementia is able still to do estate planning.
For example, they can designate a person to make health care decisions for them and handle their financial affairs. A good estate plan may also account for the cost of assisted living through MassHealth planning.
If a loved one’s dementia has progressed to a certain point, a family may need to consider a guardianship and conservatorship for their loved one.