Stages of your Elder Care Journey

Look Out for Stage #2!

In our Elder Law Practice, we commonly see Seniors in one of three stages of the Elder Care Journey. The term “stages” as used herein is not a medical term. It is simply my observation of where a Senior currently resides on the Elder Care Journey. However it has been my observation that the Seniors in each stage have certain shared characteristics. For our purposes, they have specific planning needs at each stage that needs specific attention.

Stage #1 of Your Elder Care Journey

This is the stage where a Senior can clearly handle their own business. This one is clear. When your parent is cognitively clear, they can and should act independently unless they ask for assistance. At Stage #1, it is easy for your assistance to be taken as overreaching.

For planning purposes, if the Senior is at Stage #1, and has not met with their attorney to do estate planning, this is their opportunity to do so. At this stage, the Senior knows what they want. They can direct the preparation of legal documents. The Senior is ensured their plans are implemented according to their will in the event of their death or incapacity.

Are you at Stage #1? Click the button below for your Phase (Stage) 1 Planning Guide.

Stage #3 of Your Elder Care Journey

(Yes, we skipped one – Stage #2 is below).
This stage is also clear. This is the stage where a Senior has lost all cognitive ability to act on their own behalf. If your parent has authorized you via proper legal documents to act on their behalf in the event of death or incapacity, then you may do so according to the power given you in those documents. These documents would either have been done or not. You can’t go back and create something that doesn’t exist.

For planning purposes, if you find yourself at Stage #3 and your parent has not prepared proper legal documents authorizing someone to act on their behalf, then you may have to contact an attorney for assistance with a guardianship action.

Are you at Stage #3? Click the button below for your Phase (Stage) 3 Planning Guide.

Stage #2 of Your Elder Care Journey

We save the second Stage of your elder care journey for last. Navigating this stage is not as easy as the Stages above. At this stage, a Senior can carry on a conversation. A person meeting them for the first time would not notice any issues at all. A typical example of this stage is a Senior with early dementia or Alzheimer’s. They may have moments of clarity and moments where they are confused and lost. If your parent is at this stage, you see your parent struggling cognitively. Outsiders, however, may think that they are fine.

At this stage, your parent may need assistance but may not realize it. They may start making some errors in judgment. Some may forget things and may even get lost occasionally – but they are trying to carry on with little assistance. They may still be driving (and in some cases) may be still trying to work.

A (Very) Slippery Slope

As they decline even more, it gets even worse and can be dangerous. This stage in the Elder Care Journey might be the scariest of all! The Senior may still be driving and may still be trying to make daily life and business decisions. However they may or may not be clear as to the effects of their actions at that moment in time. At this point they may not have been diagnosed as having a cognitive impairment. Usually, they can pull off a coherent conversation – but clearly need help.

The problem is, they don’t realize they need help and may resent any offers of assistance. They may refuse to go to a doctor for an evaluation and insist on doing everything independently. Every time you offer to help, you may encounter push back. At this stage, your parent may think things are perfectly OK. This belief causes them to insist on carrying on with life as normal. You are afraid that they will suffer harm and want to help but are hitting roadblocks.

Are you at Stage #3? Click the button below for your Phase (Stage) 3 Planning Guide.

Planning at the Third Stage of your Elder Care Journey

The planning at Stage #3 is very difficult. If there are no documents in place authorizing you to act on their behalf, you may not have authority to take any actions to help. If there is no medical evaluation showing a cognitive impairment, you may not have the information needed to obtain a guardianship order appointing you to act for them.

At this stage, it is critical to get your declining parent to a medical professional as soon as possible and to closely follow all medical advice given. It is also critical to contact an Elder Law Attorney and see what options may be available to help you help the declining parent in your life.

Best wishes as you work to help the declining parent in your life plan for their best quality of life, while taking actions to reduce the stress in your own life.

About the Author

Doug & his wife Cindy have not only helped hundreds of families with their estate planning and elder law needs over the years, but have personal experience as caregivers and advocates for their Loved Ones as well.

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