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Preparing for the Challenges of Aging

Preparing for the Challenges of Aging

Not many people go through life wondering what will happen if they lose control over their mind or body. However, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that in 2017, close to 50 million people struggled with dementia.

For family members, the warning signs can be hard to spot, and the person may even try to hide them. There may be confusion over regularly performed tasks, forgetting to pay a bill or missing a meeting. According to the Taunton Gazette’s article “Preparing for complications associated with aging,” family members must keep their eyes open for clues, including lapses in judgement about financial matters, like sending money to a phone call scammer, or changes in behavior.

A conversation should be part of estate planning or when talking about regular financial planning. Address the potential problems, while parents still have mental capacity. As soon as any warning signs are evident, the time frame for preparedness needs to speed up.

When discussing the estate plan, several documents are used to prepare for cognitive impairment. In addition to a last will and testament, the estate plan needs to have a health care power of attorney and a durable power of attorney.

A Health Care Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives caretakers, usually an adult child, and sometimes a trusted friend, the legal ability to speak with health care providers about medical treatment. These documents need to be kept current, so there are no obstacles to their use. Every three to five years, they should be updated, or as circumstances change. Without them, the caretaker won’t be able to have a conversation with a loved one’s doctor regarding any health issues, including mental capacity.

A Durable Power of Attorney allows another person, who is called the “agent,” to handle  almost everything in your life. This also needs to be current, since many banks and financial institutions will balk, if they are handed a POA that is more than five years old. Many financial institutions have their own forms. Each institution needs to be asked what forms they will accept, and how “fresh” the POA needs to be.

Cognitive impairment is an important reason for aging adults to rely on trusts. Unlike assets in an individual’s name, assets owned by a trust can be managed by a trustee. If you are the trustee and become mentally incapacitated, your chosen back-up trustee can manage the assets. The trustee needs to be someone you trust with no reservations, who is willing to take on this task.

One of the challenges of incapacity, is transferring the management of a person’s assets and their health care decisions to someone who is not impaired. The aging parent may be very good at hiding their disability, and they can often mislead family members for extended periods of time.

One unusual and creative idea: create a “disability board of directors”—a group of family members, friends, or beneficiaries who decide if the loved one needs help. This is far easier than relying on doctors to declare incompetency or needing to apply to the court for guardianship.

Your elder law attorney will be able to create a plan for incapacity as part of an overall estate plan.

Reference: Taunton Gazette (July 12, 2019) “Preparing for complications associated with aging,”

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“On the threshold of retirement, we finally decided to quit thinking we could self-prepare the requisite documents. We had previously had only a very simple will. We needed the necessary legal (including updated will) & health care docs but didn’t want to deal with the time & complication of legalese. Cindy made the process relatively painless. She took the time to explain and answer questions without trying to upsell services. We were done in 2 meetings plus the reading of emailed drafts. In addition to preparing the documents, Nelson Eldercare will be there when our adult children need advice on executing the plans we’ve put in place.So glad it’s behind us and would recommend Cindy and her helpful staff.”

- Bonnie

Cindy and her company treat their clients like family. Nelson’s offers clear, direct, and honest guidance in planning for your families security and future. No one wants to actively sit down and make these decisions, but Nelson’s makes this process seamless. I was so impressed with their willingness to answer all questions big or small. So glad I made the decision have them help my mom and dad and now me. You can’t go wrong with Nelson’s Elder Care Law.

- Hope

The very best elder law attorney and staff anyone could ever ask for! I have referred a number of clients to Cindy and she never disappoints. She is kind, caring, and extremely thorough in making sure everything is completed as it should be. I highly recommend Cindy for anyone needing lawyer services; she truly goes above and beyond for every client she helps and has had a huge impact in so many peoples’ lives. Thank you, Cindy and staff, for everything that you do- I’m so glad to know you!

- Kerri

I heard Cindy’s presentation at a Senior Luncheon at my church, and was very impressed. She helped my daughter and me understand many aspects of elder law. Josh has also been very helpful in my planning to enter an independent living situation . I have told many friends about them.

- Charlotte

Cindy and the Nelson Elder Care Law team are trustworthy and helpful. They are the experts in elder care law. At Leaf Cremation, we entrust our families to the care of the Nelson team when their services are needed.

- Pierce