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Capacity or Competency of an Elder Afflicted With Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is an advanced disease that destroys one’s memory and other important mental functions, including intellectual and social skills, as it is the most common cause of dementia, making those who Alzheimer’s more susceptible to elder abuse and which calls into question the person’s mental capacity or competency. In Alzheimer’s disease, the connections between brain cells and the brain cells themselves degenerate and die, which cases a steady deterioration of memory and mental function, often called dementia, incapacity or incompetence as its later stages. These changes in the brain become severe enough to interfere with one’s day-to-day life, including the inability to do many things on their own. Current Alzheimer’s disease medications and management strategies may temporarily improve symptoms and can sometimes help the sufferer to maximize function and maintain independence. However, there is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death, or dementia, incapacity or incompetence before death

Although Alzheimer’s disease develops differently for every individual, there are many common symptoms. Early symptoms are often mistakenly thought to be ‘age-related’ concerns, or manifestations of stress. In the early stages, the most common symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events. As the disease advances, symptoms can include confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings, trouble with language, and long-term memory loss which makes you or your loved one susceptible to financial or physical abuse due their lack of capacity. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death.

There is a growing prevalence and impact of Alzheimer’s within society today. According to the latest Alzheimer’s disease Facts and Figures, one in three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Furthermore, there are currently, 5.2 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, according to the report, the number of American’s with Alzheimer’s could potentially triple by 2050. However, about half of those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias have not been diagnosed. Therefore, the population of those who are unable to protect or care for themselves is growing. Consequently, the prevalence of elder abuse is also growing as cognitive deficits, such as Alzheimer’s disease, is one of several factors that increase a person’s vulnerability to financial or physical abuse.

Alzheimer’s not only affects those with it but also those caring for those with the disease. Because Alzheimer’s disease cannot be cured and is degenerative, the sufferer relies on others for assistance. In 2012, 15.4 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.5 billion hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Furthermore, since those with Alzheimer’s are susceptible to financial and physical abuse due to their deteriorating capacity, it is necessary to consider legal and financial matters for you or your loved one. People with Alzheimer’s may have the capacity to manage their own legal and financial affairs right now, but as the Alzheimer’s advances, they will need to rely on others to act in their best interest, which does not always occur. However, advance planning allows people with Alzheimer’s and their families to make decisions together for what may come. As clearly written legal documents that outline your or your loved one’s wishes and decisions become more and more essential as the Alzheimer’s progresses.

If you believe that you or your loved one needs to put together a living trust, power of attorney, will or other estate planning documents, or if you have been a victim of abuse, contact an experienced estate planning or physical and financial elder abuse attorney at The Evans Law Firm. You may also call us at 415-441-8669 or e-mail us at info@evanslaw.com for a free and confidential consultation.

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