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When Should I Start Discussing Cognitive Decline with My Parents?

McNair Dallas Law

Older Mother talking with her grown daughter on the couch.

Your elderly mother is getting forgetful and confused. What do you do now?

Conversations about brain health should take place prior to retirement, before signs of cognitive decline, when everyone is competent and more able to pay and qualify for long-term care insurance.  Waiting until a senior’s cognitive decline is apparent may already be too late, says CNBC’s recent article entitled “Waiting to talk finance with an aging parent in cognitive decline is a mistake, experts say.”

Some incidents that could spark these conversations include a parent thinking about downsizing, claiming Social Security, scheduling an annual physical, or a friend or relative experiencing cognitive decline.

An effective approach may be for the adult children to share their own plans for maintaining brain health and preparing in case of incapacity.  However, they should understand that understanding their parents’ financial situation and long-term care plans may take several discussions.

Here are some questions to ask in stages, over a period of time:

  • Where do you keep your financial and estate planning documents?
  • What assets do you have and what are your debts?
  • Is it possible to meet with your advisors to have a good understanding in the event of a crisis?
  • Who are your healthcare professionals?
  • What medications do you take and where’s your pharmacy?
  • Do you have long-term care insurance or other plans for long-term care?
  • Who do you want to speak for you if you are incapacitated due to cognitive decline?
  • What are your wishes as to end-of-life care and funeral plans and expenses?
  • If you have a medical crisis, what kind of treatment do you want?

Evaluate their responses with the help of an experienced elder law attorney to these basic questions and plan the next steps.

There’s some paperwork that should be done at this point, if it hasn’t already. This includes a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, Power of Attorney for Healthcare, a Living Will, and a General HIPAA AuthorizationContact our office if these documents need to be created or updated.

Reference: CNBC (Nov. 30, 2021) “Waiting to talk finance with an aging parent in cognitive decline is a mistake, experts say”

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