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When Is a Person Too Incapacitated to Sign a Will, Trust or POA?

When Is a Person Too Incapacitated to Sign a Will, Trust or POA?As an elder law attorney, I frequently advise adult children who suddenly realize that they must step in to help an aging parent. Perhaps Dad has fallen behind on his bills, or Mom is not making sound decisions when it comes to her medical care. Regardless of the reason, this transition of control over their very personal affairs can be challenging.

Unfortunately, the parent may be reluctant to sign a power of attorney (POA), empowering the child to make legal decisions on their behalf, because this step is frequently seen as a direct loss of independence. Combine that with the child’s reluctance to broach the subject out of fear that it may result in anger or offense, and you have a recipe for procrastination.

When families delay discussing these matters and fail to preplan, the results can be stressful and costly. In many cases, an attorney has to decide if a senior is legally incapacitated and therefore unable to sign a will, trust or power of attorney.

Wills

Many people are surprised to find out that a person with Alzheimer’s—even one currently under guardianship—may still be legally capable of signing a will. That’s because under the laws of most states, a person is competent to sign a will if they meet the following criteria at the time of signing:

  • They know the natural objects of their bounty (i.e., are aware of their spouse and children, if any).
  • They comprehend the kind and character of their property (i.e., know approximately their net worth and what kind of assets they own).
  • They understand the nature and effect of the act (i.e., realize that it is indeed a will they are signing and what that means).
  • They are able to make a disposition of their property according to a plan formed in their mind.

Thus, a lawyer must meet with the individual in question and try to discern the above. If the attorney determines that the client is incapacitated, they must refuse to prepare a will.

Power of Attorney Documents

A slightly different competency test is involved for signing a power of attorney. With POA documents, the individual must be capable of understanding and appreciating the extent and effect of the document, just as if they were signing a contract. For this reason, a person may be deemed competent to sign a power of attorney but not competent to sign a will.

If it turns out that the client is not competent to appoint a power of attorney for health care and/or finances, it may be necessary for the adult child or another family member to seek guardianship (also known as conservatorship).

Read: How to Get Guardianship of a Senior

Trusts

Similarly, a trust is sometimes deemed to be more like a contract than a will, so the mental capacity required to sign a trust may be less than that needed to sign a will. In recent years, states have recognized that living trusts are often utilized as substitutes for traditional wills. Therefore, some have enacted statutes that make the competency test for creating a trust the same as that for signing a valid will.

A Note on Mental and Physical Capacity

The mental capacity to sign a legal document should not be confused with the physical ability to sign one’s name. The law will permit a person to sign an “X” (known as a “mark”) that will suffice in lieu of a signature as long as it is properly witnessed. In addition, if an individual is incapable of making a mark, they can direct someone else to sign on their behalf.

Of course, the best advice is not to wait until it may be too late to engage in proper legal planning. If possible, make a point of having these conversations with family members while they are still of sound mind and able to comprehend exactly what they’re signing and why. These discussions can be difficult, but an experienced elder law attorney can help with this process.

Source: AgingCare.com

10 Tips for Family Caregivers

10 Tips for Family Caregivers

  1. Seek support from other caregivers. You are not alone!
  2. Take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
  3. Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you.
  4. Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
  5. Caregiving is hard work so take respite breaks often.
  6. Watch out for signs of depression and don’t delay getting professional help when you need it.
  7. Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
  8. Organize medical information so it’s up to date and easy to find.
  9. Make sure legal documents are in order.
  10. Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!

Source: Caregiver Action Network

Stages of Alzheimer’s

Alzhiemer'sAlzheimer’s disease typically progresses slowly in three general stages — mild (early-stage), moderate (middle-stage), and severe (late-stage). Since Alzheimer’s affects people in different ways, each person will experience symptoms – or progress through Alzheimer’s stages – differently.

Overview of disease progression

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease worsen over time, although the rate at which the disease progresses varies. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.

Changes in the brain related to Alzheimer’s begin years before any signs of the disease. This time period, which can last for years, is referred to as preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.

The stages below provide an overall idea of how abilities change once symptoms appear and should only be used as a general guide. They are separated into three different categories: mild Alzheimer’s disease, moderate Alzheimer’s disease and severe Alzheimer’s disease. Be aware that it may be difficult to place a person with Alzheimer’s in a specific stage as stages may overlap.

Mild Alzheimer’s disease (early-stage)

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may function independently. He or she may still drive, work and be part of social activities. Despite this, the person may feel as if he or she is having memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects.

Friends, family or neighbors begin to notice difficulties. During a detailed medical interview, doctors may be able to detect problems in memory or concentration. Common difficulties include:

  • Problems coming up with the right word or name
  • Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people
  • Having greater difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings
  • Forgetting material that one has just read
  • Losing or misplacing a valuable object
  • Increasing trouble with planning or organizing

Moderate Alzheimer’s disease (middle-stage)

Moderate Alzheimer’s is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, the person with Alzheimer’s will require a greater level of care.

You may notice the person with Alzheimer’s confusing words, getting frustrated or angry, or acting in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe. Damage to nerve cells in the brain can make it difficult to express thoughts and perform routine tasks.

At this point, symptoms will be noticeable to others and may include:

  • Forgetfulness of events or about one’s own personal history
  • Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
  • Being unable to recall their own address or telephone number or the high school or college from which they graduated
  • Confusion about where they are or what day it is
  • The need for help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion
  • Trouble controlling bladder and bowels in some individuals
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night
  • An increased risk of wandering and becoming lost
  • Personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions or compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing or tissue shredding

Severe Alzheimer’s disease (late-stage)

In the final stage of this disease, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases, but communicating pain becomes difficult. As memory and cognitive skills continue to worsen, personality changes may take place and individuals need extensive help with daily activities.

At this stage, individuals may:

  • Require full-time, around-the-clock assistance with daily personal care
  • Lose awareness of recent experiences as well as of their surroundings
  • Require high levels of assistance with daily activities and personal care
  • Experience changes in physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit and, eventually, swallow
  • Have increasing difficulty communicating
  • Become vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia

 

Source: Alz.org

Maple Syrup Fights Alzheimer’s

Maple syrup isn’t just delicious, it also could cure Alzheimer’s disease

It’s a sweet new health discovery: Maple syrup could cure Alzheimer’s disease.Maple Syrup Alzheimer's

The delicious pancake topping may soon find its way into granny’s pill bottle because it stops brain cell damage that causes the disease, scientists revealed Monday.

The tasty treat may prevent the clumping and “misfolding” of brain cell proteins — which build up and cause plaques that trigger the devastating disease, researchers at the American Chemical Society said.

An extract of the sticky stuff stopped the dangerous “folding” in two types of brain proteins, researchers from the Krembil Research Institute of the University of Toronto said.

“Natural food products such as green tea, red wine, berries, curcumin and pomegranates continue to be studied for their potential benefits in combating Alzheimer’s disease,” said symposium director Dr. Navindra Seeram.

“And now, in preliminary laboratory-based Alzheimer’s disease studies, phenolic-enriched extracts of maple syrup from Canada showed neuroprotective effects, similar to resveratrol, a compound found in red wine,” she said.

Researchers plan to study whether a maple syrup extract can be effective as a cure for degenerative brain disease.

The syrup protects two brain proteins — beta amyloid and tau peptide, researchers said.

Researchers from the American Chemical Society discussed the discovery at an annual symposium, which is being held March 13-17 in San Diego.

Dr. Donald Weaver of the Krembil Research Institute revealed the discovery.

 

Source: New York Post, March 17, 2016

Abuse and Neglect

Abuse and neglect of a senior or vulnerable adult happens much more often than most of us have any idea.  Approximately 9.5% of the US population over the age of 65 experiences some type of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation. We like to think that it won’t happen in our families.  Unfortunately, it can and very well may.Abuse and Neglect Women

Females are abused more frequently than males, and the older the individual is, the more likely they are to be abused.   The vast majority of abusers are family members (approximately 90%); most abusers are adult children, spouses, or partners. Family members who abuse drugs or alcohol, who have a mental/emotional illness, and those who feel burdened by their caregiving responsibilities abuse at higher rates than those who do not.

Abuse comes in many forms, neglect being the most frequent, followed by physical abuse, financial exploitation, and emotional abuse.  Neglect is the refusal to provide an elderly person with life necessities such as food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, and personal safety.  Physical abuse is a physical force that causes or is likely to cause injury, pain or impairment to an elder. Financial abuse or exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets.

The elder is often reluctant to acknowledge or report abuse themselves because of fear of retaliation, fear of abandonment, lack of physical and/or cognitive ability to report, or because they don’t want to get the abuser, often a family member, in trouble.

We must be willing to stand up to protect our elders.  If you have concerns, or suspect abuse, do your part – talk to someone, call Adult Protective Services (APS).  APS provides services in each state to insure the safety and well-being of elders and adults with disabilities who are in danger of being mistreated or neglected, are unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from harm, and have no one to assist them. A staff member will make contact with the elder to assess their current risk factors.  With the help of the elder, the APS worker will develop a plan to assist them. Those who have the capability to understand their circumstances have the right to refuse services, regardless of the level of risk. If you suspect abuse, call 208-334-3833.

Written by: Dee Childers, Life Changes Elder Care Consulting, LLC

Being a Healthy Caregiver

Caregiver

As a caregiver, you may find yourself with so many responsibilities that you neglect taking good care of yourself. But the best thing you can do for the person you are caring for is stay physically and emotionally strong. Here’s how:

See the doctor

Be sure to visit your physician regularly (at least annually), and listen to what your body is telling you. Any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, or changes in appetite or behavior should be taken seriously. Ignoring these symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.

If you are caring for someone in the late-stages of Alzheimer’s, talk to your health care provider about the seasonal flu shot. Being vaccinated protects both you and the person you are caring for.

Get moving

No doubt you know that exercise is an important part of staying healthy — it can help relieve stress, prevent disease and make you feel good. But finding the time to exercise is another story.

Use these tips:

  • Take friends and family members up on their offers to help.
    You can get in a good workout in a short amount of time — even a 30 minute break. Use our Care Team Calendar to help coordinate a schedule where you have breaks to exercise and take care of your health.
  • Start small.
    While it is recommended that you get 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week, even 10 minutes a day can help. Fit in what you can, and work toward a goal.
  • Exercise at home.
    When the person with dementia naps, pull out a yoga mat and stretch, set up a stationary bike, or try exercise tapes.
  • Find something you love.
    If you enjoy the activity, it will be easier to make it a habit.

There also are many ways you can be active with the person with dementia. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a walk together outside to enjoy the fresh air
  • Go to the mall and take a stroll indoors
  • Do seated exercises at home
  • Dance together to favorite music
  • Garden or do other routine activities that you both enjoy

Eat well

Heart-healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, are good for overall health and may help protect the brain. A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats. Try new recipes and involve the person with dementia.

Need ideas on how to go healthy?
Try these resources:

Five tips to help you cope

  • Manage your level of stress.
    Consider how stress affects your body (stomach aches, high blood pressure) — and your emotions (overeating, irritability). Find ways to relax.
  • Be realistic.
    The care you give does make a difference, but many behaviors can’t be controlled. Grieve the losses, focus on positive times as they arise, and enjoy good memories.
  • Give yourself credit, not guilt.
    It’s normal to lose patience or feel like your care may fall short sometimes. You’re doing the best you can. For support and encouragement, join ALZConnected, our online caregiver community.
  • Take a break.
    It’s normal to need a break from caregiving duties. No one can do it all by themselves. Look into respite care to allow time to take care of yourself.
  • Accept changes.
    Eventually your loved one will need more intensive kinds of care. Research care options now so you are ready for the changes as they occur.

 

Source: Alz.org

Why Does Alzheimer’s Disease Affect More Women Than Men?

Women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Nearly two-thirds of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women and two-thirds of the more than 15 million Americans providing care and support for someone with Alzheimer’s disease are women. This devastating disease places an unbalanced burden on women at work and at home, forcing them to make difficult choices about their careers, their relationships and  their futures.

As real a concern as breast cancer is to women’s health, women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop AD over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer.

So why does this disease seem to affect more women than men? At first glance, the answer may be that women generally live longer than men, making them more likely to reach the ages of greater risk. However, there is emerging evidence that suggests there may be unique biological reasons for these differences beyond longevity alone. These biological underpinnings may contribute to the underlying brain changes, progression and symptom manifestation in Alzheimer’s disease.

There is evidence that biological sex differences may affect mortality in men differently than women, but how that affects Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia incidence is not clear. Do hormones play a role? What about our genes? Do lifestyle components such as sleep patterns, stress and depression influence sex differences in Alzheimer’s disease?

To tackle many of these questions head on, the Alzheimer’s Association convened top experts in the field of biological sex and Alzheimer’s disease to explore these issues in depth. The “Gender Vulnerability Related to Alzheimer’s Disease” think tank identified gaps in our knowledge and next steps in research needed to advance our understanding. During the think tank, three main topics were discussed: underlying biological mechanisms, the role of hormonal factors and the impact of lifestyle factors.

As a direct result of this think tank, the Alzheimer’s Association announced the new Sex and Gender in Alzheimer’s (SAGA) grant funding program, aimed at supporting scientific investigation that addresses the gaps in our understanding of the role biological sex and related genetic, biological, lifestyle and societal factors may play in increasing vulnerability for Alzheimer’s. Additionally, projects funded through SAGA will help meet a need to incorporate learnings from the developing biology fields to merge the expanding field of sex biology research with Alzheimer’s pathophysiological studies.mariacarrillo

As with all of our grants, applications for SAGA funding will undergo the Alzheimer’s Association’s rigorous peer-review process. I look forward to sharing more about these grants when they are awarded later this year.

 

About the Author: Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., is Chief Science Officer, Medical and Scientific Relations, at the Alzheimer’s Association.

SAGA was made possible from the generous support of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Research Initiative (WARI), a campaign that supports research grants specific to sex-biology and gender issues in Alzheimer’s and other dementias. To date, the Alzheimer’s Association has raised $1.6 million for the initiative, including a generous $1 million in support from the Sigma Kappa Foundation.

 

Source: Blog.alz.org, Feb 11, 2016

How Giving Thanks Can Improve Your Health

As we enter the season of thanksgiving (including The Day itself), we are told repeatedly to count our blessings and practice gratitude. Many of us stop to consider all we have to be thankful for only for a moment on the fourth Thursday of November. But does the act of giving thanks provide benefits beyond a momentary acknowledgement of the good in our lives? Can a daily practice of gratitude actually improve our health?

Many experts think so. One of the main scientists exploring the phenomenon of giving thanks is Robert Emmons, who has studied the topic extensively. His book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, chronicles the studies he’s done that have convinced him that gratitude “is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.”

Emmons is far from alone in his enthusiasm for gratitude. Dr. Lawrence Rosen, an integrative pediatrician and founder of the Whole Child Center, is also an advocate. According to Rosen, there are at least five benefits of gratitude that have scientific studies to back them up.

  • Gratitude reduces depression.
  • Gratitude engenders a feeling of peace.
  • Gratitude aids in restful sleep.
  • Gratitude improves heart health.
  • Gratitude strengthens memory.

So, how does one practice the art of gratitude?

One of the practices that Mr. Emmons extols is the gratitude journal. Oprah Winfrey has been talking about her personal experiences with a gratitude journal for years. The goal here is to set aside some time every day and write down several things you’re grateful for. According to Emmons, the act of writing “allows you to see the meaning of events going on around you and create meaning in your own life.”

Here are some other tips to keep you on the road of practicing gratitude:

Create visual cues

The toils of daily life can make us quickly forget all we have to be grateful for. So, remind yourself every day with visual reminders. This could be a photograph, a physical token of a feel-good moment (such as a souvenir from a wonderful vacation), or even just a Post-It note listing something for which you’re grateful.

Get support

Surround yourself with people who practice gratitude on a daily basis. Hearing someone share what they’re thankful for (especially if they’re facing a challenge) will remind you of all the blessings in your own life.

Give freely of yourself

Be conscious of the “emotional wake” you leave in the word. Smile at strangers and notice their reaction. Being conscious of how your actions affect others will naturally lead to others being grateful for you, which is the one of the greatest gifts of all.

Gratitude is like any other discipline – it takes practice! It starts with being awake and aware of the world around you and the beauty that is available for all us to share.

 

Senior Volunteers Give from the Heart Wordfind

Serving as a volunteer is a way more and more older adults are giving back to their community and their nation. And volunteering offers many health benefits!

Give your brain a workout with this month’s puzzle, which contains 20 words all having to do with locating volunteer opportunities that are a great fit for your skills and interests. Click here to download and print the puzzle.

Need a little help? Click here for the solution to the puzzle.

Copyright © IlluminAge AgeWise, 2015

Grandchild-Proof Your Home

Grandchildren are a great bonus of growing older. You may have heard the old joke: “If I knew grandchildren were going to be this fun, I would have had them first.” Grandparents and grandchildren alike benefit by this special connection. For example, a study presented last month by the American Sociological Association showed that grandparents and grandchildren who have a close relationship lower the risk of depression for both of them.

Today’s grandparents are serving an ever more important role in the lives of their grandchildren. According to a recent MetLife study, there are more grandparents than ever in the U.S.—and despite the stereotype of Granny sitting on the porch in her rocking chair, today’s grandparents are more actively involved than ever with their grandkids.

Maybe your grandchildren live nearby, and you often fill in as a babysitter. Perhaps they live at a distance, and visits are an eagerly awaited special event. You might even be one of the growing number of seniors who are raising their grandchildren when the children’s parents cannot. No matter what your situation, when grandchildren are in your home, you want them to be safe…and you want to be able to enjoy their visits without worry.

Your concern is justified. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, each year 2.5 million children are seriously injured—some fatally—by hazards in the home. Most of these accidents were preventable! Read on for a quick refresher course in childproofing your home, including some information that may be new to you if it’s been a while since you scrutinized your home for things curious little hands could get into.

A few things to remember:

Child safety precautions may seem more stringent. Health and safety experts continue to refine ideas about keeping children safe. For example, toy safety regulations are much more strict than they used to be, and many experts and young parents are more cautious about the materials from which toys are manufactured. Read labels to be sure toys are safe for the age of the child. And if you’ve saved treasured playthings from when your children were young, or picked up fun-looking items at a garage sale, inspect them carefully to be sure they contain no small parts that could cause choking (smaller than two inches in diameter), sharp edges, or materials that could break into pieces. Some heirloom toys are best kept on display—out of reach.

Outdated safety equipment may be UNsafe. Child safety devices have come a long way. For example, the evolution of the child car seat alone would make quite a story! Remember the pre-seatbelt days when kids crawled all over the back seat during family trips? And those unanchored car seats with a toy steering wheel? Since then, child car seats have been continually improved, so that even a decade-old car seat is probably not consdiered state-of-the art. The same goes for home safety equipment. For example, the common flat plastic outlet protector could fit in a small child’s mouth—a choking hazard. A child’s neck could get caught in the old scissor-style safety gate. Hand-me-down or garage sale equipment may not provide an acceptable degree of protection.

Our homes have changed over the past few decades. The homes of today are likely to have exercise equipment, hot tubs, home offices with computers, and other relatively recent features requiring a new set of precautions. Computers, for example, are often placed on the floor within reach, and monitors and laptops can be pulled down by the cord.

Some grandparents recommend having a designated “kid friendly” section of the house, keeping more dangerous areas locked off (for example, the home gym and garage). Be creative! If the living room has the fewest hazards, make it the playroom while you have visiting little ones.

Be open to suggestions! Don’t get your feelings hurt if your kids correct you. They’re Mom and Dad now, and they’ve probably done plenty of homework about childproofing. Be proud of them.

For More Information

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ consumer site, Healthy Children  http://www.healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx, features home safety tips http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/default.aspx, including “A Message for Grandparents: Keeping Your Grandchild Safe in Your Home” http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/pages/A-Message-for-Grandparents-Keeping-Your-Grandchild-Safe-in-Your-Home.aspx.

Copyright © AgeWise, 2013