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Know when it's time to take over your parent's decisions

If you're caring for a parent and potentially their estate, knowing when they're no longer of sound mind is important. Legally speaking, you may only have the right to take over making decisions once you can show that your mom or dad does not have the capacity to make good decisions or to understand the facts of a case.

One of the biggest issues with the elderly is a risk of dementia. Dementia is a little difficult to diagnose, because there are many medications and symptoms that mimic the disease. However, if your parent already has a condition such as Alzheimer's, then you know that you have to monitor them carefully for dementia as well.

What is dementia?

For people just learning about this condition, it's not actually a specific disease. Instead, it's a term that describes a decline in a person's mental abilities. The decline is so serious that it interferes with daily life. Dementia is not actually a normal part of aging, but it is something that many elderly people face as they age. Alzheimer's disease makes up between 60 and 80 percent of cases, with vascular dementia the second most common type.

How is dementia diagnosed?

There are a number of signs of dementia to monitor a patient for. These include:

  • Disruptive memory loss
  • Changes in how you plan or solve problems
  • Getting confused about the time or place
  • Finding it difficult to complete familiar tasks
  • Having trouble with speech, new words or familiar words, or forgetting words
  • Misplacing items without the ability to retrace steps
  • Unusual spending, or sudden changes in spending
  • Isolation or withdrawal from activities
  • Changes in mood or personality

These are all different symptoms a person may show when developing Alzheimer's and dementia. It's possible to detect Alzheimer's disease early on and to medicate a patient to help slow the progression of the disease and prevent dementia.

It's possible to have your loved one tested regularly for the onset of this disease, so you know where they stand. The test, the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination, or SAGE, helps patients self-identify changes in their lives. Combined with regular medical exams, medical providers can sometimes identify the onset of disease and help patients by treating their symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease overall. This can help your loved one stay in control of their lives longer and let you know when it's time to step in.

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