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Navigating Power of Attorney for Your Parent With Alzheimer's

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
6 minute readLast updated February 12, 2024

As a caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s, you face unique challenges and responsibilities. One of the most crucial is establishing a power of attorney. Get a head start on the process by setting up important legal documents now to ensure that future decisions align with your loved one’s wishes. Understanding the importance of living wills and powers of attorney is essential to avoiding last-minute challenges down the road.

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What is a power of attorney, and why is it crucial in Alzheimer's care?

A power of attorney is an important legal document that grants someone the authority to make decisions on behalf of another person. In the context of Alzheimer’s, it becomes vital as it allows a trusted individual to manage financial, legal, and/or health-related decisions when your loved one may no longer be capable.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s disease progresses through several stages, from preclinical Alzheimer’s to severe dementia.[01] Recognizing which stage your parent is in can guide when and how to discuss and establish a power of attorney.
A power of attorney allows you to make decisions on behalf of your parent when they no longer can. In early stages, like mild cognitive impairment, your parent may still participate in these decisions. As the disease progresses to moderate and severe dementia, this legal tool becomes indispensable for managing their affairs.

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Can a person with Alzheimer’s sign a power of attorney?

Your loved one with Alzheimer’s may be able to sign a power of attorney, but it depends on their mental capacity. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, such as the preclinical stage or early-stage dementia, your parent may still have sufficient mental capacity to understand and sign a power of attorney. If your loved one didn’t make legal preparations ahead of their diagnosis, this is the ideal time to discuss and set up these documents.
As the Mayo Clinic outlines, Alzheimer’s progresses through distinct stages, and in the later stages, such as moderate or severe dementia, your parent may no longer have the legal capacity to make these decisions. Establishing a power of attorney early in the Alzheimer’s journey is essential. It ensures that when your parent reaches a stage where they can no longer make decisions for themselves, their wishes and rights are already protected and in place.

How to get power of attorney for a senior with Alzheimer's

Obtaining a power of attorney for your parent with Alzheimer’s involves several key steps:
  1. Understand the types of power of attorney: Learn the differences between a medical power of attorney, which covers health care decisions, and a financial power of attorney, for financial matters.
  2. Consult with an elder law attorney: An attorney can provide guidance tailored to your situation and ensure all legal requirements are met.
  3. Discuss with your loved one: Have an open and honest conversation about their wishes and the implications of power of attorney.
  4. Complete the legal documents: Fill out the power of attorney form with all necessary details. This process may vary by state but is essential to ensure legal protection for your loved one with dementia.
  5. Notarize and store safely: Ensure the documents are notarized and kept in a secure place, accessible to those who may need it.

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3 things to remember about Alzheimer's and power of attorney

As you navigate this process of obtaining a power of attorney for your parent with Alzheimer’s, there are three crucial aspects to keep in mind:

1. Power of attorney should be durable

Unlike a standard power of attorney, a durable power of attorney remains effective even if your parent loses mental capacity. This is vital in Alzheimer’s care, ensuring you can make decisions throughout the disease’s progression.

2. A principal must be competent to sign a power of attorney

Initiate power of attorney discussions sooner rather than later. Your parent (the principal) must be legally competent to sign the document when they can still understand its significance. It’s crucial to set up the POA before the diagnosis or early in the disease progression while your loved one can still make clear decisions.

3. Not having power of attorney may be costly

Delaying power of attorney can lead to complex legal battles later, especially as your parent’s cognitive abilities decline. Early action can prevent costly and stressful legal and care processes.
Your role in caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s is both challenging and vital. Establishing a power of attorney early on is a crucial step in honoring their wishes and ensuring their well-being. As you navigate this journey, remember that each step you take now paves the way for smoother decision-making in the future and better care for your loved one.


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OurParents Staff

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