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Is my parent mentally incapacitated?

Watching your parents get older can be upsetting, particularly when they get ill or begin to lose capabilities and independence. And as their children, it may not always be clear how we can help them or whether they even need help in the first place.

For instance, if a parent is experiencing dementia other types of compromised mental states, loved ones may be unsure of whether he or she has the mental capacity to make financial, medical or legal decisions. In these situations, seeking an assessment can be an important way to help your parent.

Assessing mental capacity

There is no single test or strategy for measuring a person's mental capacity. Often, multiple professionals are involved in an assessment, including physicians, attorneys and psychologists, and they can all be looking for different information. Because of this, there are tests focused on various areas of capacity.

Assessments can make determinations regarding whether a person is capable of:

  • Managing his or her health
  • Expressing choices and opinions
  • Balancing risks
  • Organizing visual information
  • Understanding banking transactions
  • Remembering recent conversations
  • Comprehending basic legal elements

Why an assessment can be important

If your parent is sick, you want to be confident that he or she is taken care of and can get medical help if necessary. If your parent has meaningful assets or complicated finances, you want to protect them. If he or she lives alone or depends on others, you want to shield them from potential abuse and manipulation.

To accomplish these goals, you can seek an assessment to determine mental capacity. If it reveals that your loved one lacks the capacity to do things like make a will, express consent for medical care or manage finances, legal interventions can be critical.

When it comes to a parent's mental capacity, being proactive can be vital. Before there are any severe lapses, you might talk to them about protections like assigning power of attorney or naming a guardian. If he or she is already incapacitated, you may have to go to court and request conservatorship or guardianship.

Taking these steps not only protects your parent's health and finances, but it can also prevent painful legal battles and confusion in the future.

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