What happens when a parent isn't mentally competent?

When you're caring for a parent with dementia, there are some things you need to do to stay on the right side of the law. It's common for aging adults to deal with conditions like dementia or Alzheimer's disease, so understanding when your parent is no longer able to make decisions can help you when working on financial and legal matters.

It is most often the children of those who are affected who end up making decisions for their parents. They need to understand when a parent's mental competency no longer gives them the ability to enter into a legal agreement. At that point, the child may need to take over the parent's care completely and assume the roles assigned. It's important for aging parents to decide who they want to have as a durable power of attorney when the time comes that they can no longer make decisions on their own. A durable power of attorney makes decisions on a person's behalf when his or her health makes it impossible for him or her to do so him or herself.

Any time you begin to question your parent's ability to make good decisions, it's advised to seek a diagnosis. A medical provider can determine which stage of dementia or Alzheimer's disease affects your mother or father. Once your parent reaches a stage where he or she is mentally incompetent, then you can assume a durable power of attorney or legal guardianship, depending on your circumstances.

Your attorney can help you understand when it's time to assume a legal role in caring for your mother or father. An appropriate diagnosis and documentation is important to retain.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Issues: Caring for Parents with Dementia," accessed March 22, 2018

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