About a year ago, you started to notice your mother forgetting small details. One time she forgot to buy the cranberry sauce (a family tradition) for Thanksgiving dinner. Another time she made it all the way to the grocery store before she realized she left her purse at home. You didn’t think much of it for some time. After all, she is well into her “Golden Years.” More recently though, the memory lapses seem to be more frequent and more significant.
Your brother told you that she completely forgot his daughter’s birthday this year, something she has never done in the past. Your sister called you a couple of week’s ago and told you the electricity was shut off because she forgot to pay the bill. Finally, you went to visit last week and noticed that every night your mom seems overly tired and downright confused. Even more troubling, it looks as though the mail hasn’t even been opened, leaving a pile of bills unpaid, and it appears she hasn’t been taking her heart medicine when she is supposed to take it. Finally, a trip to the emergency room after a fall led to an evaluation by a physician who noticed the signs of dementia. Mom has now been discharged to a memory care facility.
If this scenario sounds familiar, you are hardly alone. More than five million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. Every 66 seconds, someone else develops the disease, causing experts to predict that by 2050, as many as 16 million people will be living with Alzheimer’s. Whether your mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s, or another form of age-related dementia, it can be dangerous. For some suffers the symptoms develop gradually, giving loved ones plenty of time to make arrangements for care. The symptoms of dementia can be unpredictable though. Mom may seem capable of living independently today and then wander off and become lost tomorrow.
Dementia sufferers also make excellent victims for those who prey on the vulnerable in society. Your mother’s life savings could be gone in the blink of an eye if she finds herself in the path of a scam artist. The solution may be to place mom in a memory care facility.
With the number of people living with Alzheimer’s on the rise in the U.S., a specialized type of long-term care facility has evolved known as a “memory care facility.” A memory care facility is a unique type of skilled nursing facility that caters to people with Alzheimer’s disease, age-related dementia, and other types of memory problems. Because of the unique needs of the residents, memory care facilities usually provide 24-hour skilled medical care along with increased security and supervision. You will also likely be required to go through a screening process before your mother is accepted into a facility as another layer of security for residents at the facility.
In addition, special care is taken with the aesthetics and design of a memory care unit or facility to make navigation easy and soothing for the residents. The staff in a memory care facility will also have specialized training so they understand how to treat and interact with individuals suffering from dementia or impaired cognition. You will find varying levels of care and security in memory care facilities to account for the stages of dementia. An individual in the early stages, for example, may be able to live more independently in a community type setting whereas someone if the later stages may need to be in a memory ward within a hospital type setting. Some memory care facilities even offer women-only communities or floors as a way to increase security and make the residents feel more comfortable.
From a legal standpoint, you may need to consider petitioning for guardianship over your mother at this point or at some point in the future. Unfortunately, a cure for Alzheimer’s has yet to be discovered. Dementia patients are rarely expected to improve, meaning at some point your mother will be incapable of making decisions for herself or managing her finances. In order to make decisions for her, you must have the legal authority to do so.
Likewise, you must have the legal authority to manage her estate if you wish to take control of her assets and finances. Guardianship is the legal procedure that allows a court to grant you decision making authority and/or authority over your mother’s estate if the court determines your mother is no longer legally competent.
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