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Dementia presents legal issues for elderly Colorado parents

As people are living longer, due to both healthier lifestyles and medical advances, it is becoming increasingly common that Denver residents find themselves rearing children while taking care of elderly parents.

When those elderly parents suffer from dementia related to Parkinson's or Alzheimer's diseases or other neurological disorders, the challenges become even more difficult. It is vital that those caregivers realize that there are significant ramifications when making decisions about their loved ones' health care, legal and financial affairs.

The courts will not declare a person who is in the beginning stages of dementia to be incompetent, which means that timing is especially crucial in these type of cases. It is vital for the adult children to have a frank discussion with their parents upon learning of a dementia diagnosis. Suggest to them that they execute a durable power of attorney that allows someone with their best interests at heart to make decisions about their finances, legal affairs and health care once they are no longer able.

Once the dementia has progressed, it will no longer be possible to execute this document, meaning that loved ones will have to pursue more costly and complex legal remedies to protect their parents' interests.

This is the time to find out whether or not aging parents have written a will and signed advanced directives regarding end-of-life care as well. While these discussions can be uncomfortable to initiate, they are very necessary for the best possible outcome for all involved. Once those suffering from dementia have lost testamentary capacity, they are no longer in charge of who shall get which parts of their estate after their deaths.

Many people have very strong feelings about their end-of-life preferences, only wanting palliative care to ease their discomfort and shunning advanced life support measures like resuscitative efforts, artificial nutrition and hydration, dialysis and mechanical ventilation.

If bringing up these issues with your elderly parents is too difficult, seek the counsel of an elder law attorney or gerontologist for assistance.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Issues: Caring for Parents with Dementia" accessed Mar. 20, 2015

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