Is It Time for Memory Care: 13 Signs Your Loved One Needs Memory Care

Is It Time for Memory Care: 13 Signs Your Loved One Needs Memory Care

memory care

Deciding when it’s time to consider a memory care facility for a loved one with dementia is not easy. Not only is this an emotionally charged subject liable to trigger family conflict, but there is no single set of criteria available to guide your decision. Dementia arrives in stages, but no two cases are the same—and every family has different needs.

Whether memory care for dementia is appropriate for your loved one depends on many factors—but it’s not a subject you can ignore. To assess whether it is time for your loved one to enter a memory care facility, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have friends or family members commented on changes in their behavior?
  2. Does your loved one often become agitated or combative?
  3. Is your aging relative withdrawn or nervous?
  4. Are their hygiene needs met?
  5. Does your loved one wander?
  6. Are their living conditions safe?
  7. Are their medications properly managed?
  8. Is your loved one well-nourished?
  9. Have you started to feel caregiver burnout?
  10. Is caring for your loved one going well?
  11. Are you feeling resentful towards them?
  12. Is caregiving affecting your own health?
  13. Are you and your family safe?

Subtle changes in behavior are often the first sign that a loved one will soon need memory care, though these changes can be hard for family members to pick up on. Furthermore, aggression and agitation can be dangerous signs of dementia, especially when that person is being cared for by an elderly spouse. Changes in hygiene, wandering off, and the inability to navigate their living conditions can also be signs that a loved one needs additional assistance. Finally, caregiver burnout is a common problem when caring for someone with dementia, and it can have serious physical and emotional consequences—both for the caregiver, and the patient).

Addressing the need for memory care for dementia is not just a medical matter, but a legal one, too. Getting the right legal documents in place early can save a lot of time, money, and aggravation when dementia becomes a bigger issue later.

A failing memory can complicate the estate planning in countless ways. If your aging loved ones are showing signs of dementia, please consider it an urgent matter that demands immediate attention. To learn more about what you need to do (and how to do it), download our free Living with Dementia e-Book using the brief form below, or reach out to Miller Estate and Elder Law to request a free consultation today.

At Miller Estate & Elder Law, we have decades of experience helping our clients with every aspect of estate planning and elder law. We’ve seen every mistake in the book, and are here to make sure you don’t make any of them! Give us a call today at (256) 251-2137 or use the contact form below.

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7 Common Estate Planning Mistakes (That You Can Easily Avoid)

7 Common Estate Planning Mistakes (That You Can Easily Avoid)

Family legal advisor explaining document details to mature father and adult daughter

Estate planning is a complex and nuanced process, and it’s easy to make mistakes when you don’t have professional guidance. Whether it’s a lack of communication with your executors and heirs, or failing to properly fund your trust, there are plenty of opportunities for you to torpedo your estate plan. Making a mistake in your estate plan could not only prevent your loved ones from receiving their inheritances, but could also stick them with an expensive, emotional, and time-consuming probate battle.

Luckily, working with an experienced estate planning attorney can prevent you from making these 7 common estate planning mistakes.

7 Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Here are 7 of the most common estate planning mistakes people make:

  1. Not Communicating with Your Heirs. Anyone who is named into a role in your estate plan—executor, personal representative, trustee, etc.—should know what their responsibilities are once you pass away. Furthermore, we encourage our clients to communicate with their heirs and beneficiaries about what they will be inheriting, and why. This can help prevent (or at least reduce) conflict.
  2. Not Taking Taxes into Consideration. Estate taxes really only affect larger estates, but if you don’t take this possibility into account, your heirs could end up with a nasty surprise as their inheritances get eaten up by taxes. There are numerous strategies you can take now to avoid this situation in the future. An estate planning attorney or financial planning professional can guide you through the tax planning process.
  3. Not Planning for the Death of an Executor of Beneficiary. If your executor, trustee, or one of your beneficiaries suddenly dies, the courts will step in and make determinations about how your estate will be administered. Since this may be contrary to your wishes, it’s important to plan for these contingencies.
  4. Not Naming a Beneficiary on Your Retirement Accounts or Insurance Accounts. Retirement accounts and insurance policies are great for estate planning because—when beneficiary designations are set up properly—they pass directly to their intended recipient, without having to go through probate. If you don’t name a beneficiary, however, this advantage is negated, and the accounts may be subject to probate, where it could be claimed by creditors or predators.
  5. Not Updating Your Plan. If you experience a major life event, you’ll want to update your estate plan right away. Getting married or divorced, having a child (or welcoming a new grandchild), or if one of your beneficiaries develops a substance abuse issue or gambling problems…there are countless situations that may require you to make some updates to your plan.
  6. Not Funding Your Trust. Many people use trusts as a vehicle through which to pass along their assets, without being subjected to probate court. However, if your trust is not properly funded, it serves little purpose. Your heirs and beneficiaries will still end up in probate court, and your assets may or may not be distributed the way you wish.
  7. Not Having Contingency Plans in Place. No matter how well you plan, chances are something in your estate will not go exactly according to plan. For each possibility, it’s important to have a contingency plan in place. An experienced estate planning attorney can help with this.

At Miller Estate & Elder Law, we have decades of experience helping our clients with every aspect of estate planning and elder law. We’ve seen every mistake in the book, and are here to make sure you don’t make any of them! Give us a call today at (256) 251-2137 or use the contact form below.

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Everyone Needs to Sign a Power of Attorney, But Especially Seniors

Everyone Needs to Sign a Power of Attorney, But Especially Seniors

Senior couple reads over paperwork at dining table

Estate planning often gets confused with end-of-life planning, but the two are not the same. Your estate plan does not just protect your assets after you die—it also plays an essential role in securing your health and finances while you are alive. A power of attorney is just as important as any other document in a robust estate plan, and while everyone over the age of 18 should really sign one, they are especially important for seniors.

Understanding Power of Attorney

Power of attorney comes in two forms: medical and financial. The former protects your health, the latter your finances. Here’s what you need to know:

Medical Power of Attorney

When you execute your medical power of attorney—sometimes referred to as an advance healthcare directive—you designate a trusted loved one to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. If, say, you are injured in a car accident and cannot speak for yourself, your medical power of attorney can step in and communicate your wishes. Their decision-making is constrained by instructions previously provided by you—for example, whether you do or do not want to be placed on a ventilator or feeding tube, etc.—which provides peace of mind, and reduces the potential for family conflict.

Durable Power of Attorney

Your financial power of attorney likewise allows you to designate a trusted loved one or advisor to act on your behalf should you suffer incapacitation. Here, however, the powers granted concern your legal and financial affairs. You can customize the authority you give your designated loved one, though it’s common to include access to your financial accounts for bill-pay purposes, the ability to manage property, file taxes, and apply for public benefits.

Why Powers of Attorney Are Especially Important for Seniors

Every adult needs to speak to an estate planning or elder law attorney to draft power of attorney documents, because nobody is immune to life’s unpredictability. A first-year college student is as apt to careen off the road as an aging grandparent, and both need to have their health and finances covered should this happen. Powers of attorney are especially important for seniors, however, as cognitive decline means increasing challenges related to decision-making.

If you’re an aging adult worried about dementia, it’s crucial that you sign power of attorney documents now. Doing so frees you to enjoy your golden years with the security of knowing you will be cared for, and your loved ones won’t end up fighting over how best to attend to your well-being. Furthermore, drafting power of attorney documents while you are of sound physical and mental health can prevent your loved ones from the exhausting and expensive court process of filing for guardianship and/or conservatorship later.

Take Our Healthcare Quiz to Discover the Real Importance of Powers of Attorney

People are often surprised to discover how different their and their children’s ideas are regarding medical care. It’s easy to assume that everyone is on the same page, but our Healthcare Quiz demonstrates that this is rarely the case.

Print out two copies of the quiz here, give one to your kids, keep one for yourself, answer the 12 questions separately, and compare results. Don’t be surprised by discrepancies, but do take this as reason to establish your powers of attorney now!

Reach out to the experienced elder law attorneys at Miller Estate and Elder Law by calling (256) 251-2137 or using the contact form below.

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Caring for Caregivers: Coping Skills to Fight Caregiver Burnout

Caring for Caregivers: Coping Skills to Fight Caregiver Burnout


Caring for a loved one can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it can also be emotionally and physically draining. Caregiver burnout is a common occurrence, and it’s important to recognize the signs and take steps to prevent (or reverse) it. In this article, we will discuss several coping skills to fight caregiver burnout.

What is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need. According to the Cleveland Clinic, caregiver burnout can lead to a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic fatigue.

Signs of Caregiver Burnout

There are several signs of caregiver burnout that you should be aware of. These include feeling overwhelmed, experiencing feelings of isolation, neglecting your own needs, and losing interest in activities you used to enjoy. According to Vitas Healthcare, other signs include changes in appetite or sleep patterns, feeling irritable or short-tempered, and experiencing physical symptoms, like headaches or stomach problems. Caring for aging parents or loved ones can be as difficult as it is rewarding.

Coping Skills for Caregiver Burnout

To prevent or alleviate caregiver burnout, there are several coping skills that caregivers can employ. One of the most important is asking for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to family members, friends, or community organizations for assistance. You may also want to consider hiring a professional caregiver or respite to provide a break from caregiving duties.

Practicing self-care is another important way to cope with caregiver burnout. This means taking care of your own physical and emotional needs. Make time for exercise, hobbies, and relaxation. Seek support from others, including therapists, support groups, or spiritual advisors.

It’s also important to set realistic expectations for yourself. Remember that you can’t do everything, and that it’s okay to ask for help or delegate responsibilities. Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. Try to find a balance between caregiving duties and other aspects of your life. Take advantage of technology and other modern resources to help you manage your caregiving responsibilities. There are many apps, websites, and other tools available to help you organize schedules, track medications, and connect with other caregivers.

Caregiver burnout is a serious issue that can affect both caregivers and their loved ones. It’s important to recognize the signs and take steps to prevent or alleviate it. By asking for help, practicing self-care, setting realistic expectations, and using technology and other resources, caregivers can cope with the demands of caregiving and maintain their own well-being.

Download the Free Guide: Caring for Aging Parents

At Miller Estate & Elder Law, we have helped countless caregivers gain peace of mind knowing that—at the least—the right legal tools are in place to help them help their aging loved ones. We work with caregivers at all stages, from taking the first important legal steps following a dementia diagnosis, to filing for guardianship and/or conservatorship after their loved one’s dementia symptoms become more advanced. The sooner you take action, the easier it will be to take the best possible care of your aging loved ones. Complete the brief form below to download our free e-Book and guide: Caring for Aging Loved Ones, or contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your unique needs.

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How to Legally Protect a Loved One with Dementia

How to Legally Protect a Loved One with Dementia

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, you can make the news of a devastating diagnosis a little easier for them by taking steps to make sure certain several legal documents are put into place as soon as possible. An elder law attorney can help you put a plan into place to support you and your loved one every step of the way, including establishing a durable power of attorney, a living will, a medical power of attorney, and an estate plan. These legal documents for caregivers will give you peace of mind that you are fulfilling the wishes of your loved one as they navigate their diagnosis and disease.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney allows you to make financial decisions for your loved one when they are no longer able to advocate for themselves. Working with an elder law attorney and your loved one to establish yourself as an agent will allow you to make financial decisions, sell property, handle any financial accounts like IRAs or savings, and pay bills. Establishing power of attorney is an especially crucial step to take following a dementia diagnosis. If you fail to do so and need to take over financial responsibilities for your loved one down the road, you will have to pursue a guardianship or conservatorship through the court system, leading to expensive legal fees and unnecessary hearings.

Estate Plan

In addition to establishing power of attorney to make sure their financial responsibilities are handled, your loved one may want to establish an estate plan for their assets and investments at the time of their dementia diagnosis. Your loved one and an elder law attorney can discuss any specific plans or intentions they have for their assets to make sure their investments and income are protected. An important legal document for caregivers, an estate plan provides you with a clear directive of your loved one’s wishes and them with a sense of control over their assets.

Living Will or Advanced Health Care Directive

Eventually your loved one will reach a point where they are no longer able to make health care decisions for themselves. Before that happens, you and your loved one should have a discussion about potential medical issues that might arise and what choices they would like to make for treatment. Legal documents for caregivers like a living will are legally binding and make it easier for you and them to feel confident that their wishes will be respected during more advanced stages of their disease. The living will should also include the name of the person who will become your loved one’s medical power of attorney. An elder law attorney can help you draft this document and make certain that your loved one’s voice is heard.

At Miller Estate & Elder Law, we have many years of experience helping people care for their loved ones—while protecting their hard-earned savings. Contact us today and start putting your family first, or download our free guide: Caring for Aging Parents: The ABCs of Long-Term Care Planning by filling in the brief form below.

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The 7 Stages of Dementia and How to Support Your Loved One Through Each

The 7 Stages of Dementia and How to Support Your Loved One Through Each


If a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of Dementia, you know you will be facing a hard road ahead. Seeing a family member or loved one’s mental state deteriorate can be a trying emotional experience, but knowing what to expect can help ease the mental burden. By understanding the 7 stages of dementia, you will be able to provide valuable assistance to your loved one at each step in their progression.

The 7 Stages of Dementia

Although there are different common classifications of Dementia’s stages, the progression is most often divided into seven parts. Here are the different stages and what you can do to help a loved one at each one:

  1. Normal Behavior. Because the mental deterioration associated with dementia consists of a steady progression, the early stages are not yet classified as Dementia proper. In stage one, there are no outward signs of any mental decline. This is the perfect time to talk to an elderly parent or other relative about their wishes, should they begin to decline mentally—and to make sure the right legal documents are in place!
  2. Very Mild Changes/Forgetfulness. At this stage, changes will be subtle and, in some cases, you may not notice them at all. They include light memory loss and difficulty finding the right words. At this stage, you should be absolutely sure that your loved one’s living will and health care proxy are in place, and you will need to begin watching them more closely.
  3. Mild Changes. At Stage 3, the signs of dementia will begin to be more noticeable. Memory loss will become more acute, with your loved one having difficulty with words and names, and trouble paying attention. You will have to begin taking a more active role in managing aspects of their lives, including paying bills, making appointments, and ensuring that they take their daily medications.
  4. Moderate Decline/Mild Dementia. At this stage, your parent or relative can be said to be experiencing the early stages of Dementia. They will still remember most of their past and they will know who you are. That said, their memory will continue to decline, with short term memory difficulties becoming especially prevalent. They will require more help with everyday tasks and will likely need someone to look after them daily. They will also no longer be able to drive.
  5. Moderately Severe Decline/Moderate Dementia. By now, your loved one is entering mid-stage Dementia. They will begin experiencing personality and mood changes and begin to have problems with bathroom use and eating. They will still recognize you, but will begin to forget some of their past. At this point, they will need more intensive care, such as help with dressing and bathing. If you are unable to provide this level of care, you will need to begin making arrangements to hire a health care professional.
  6. Severe Decline/Moderately Severe Dementia. In stage 6, memory loss becomes more significant and your loved one may no longer recognize you. They will forget most of their past and need significant help performing daily tasks. At this point, in addition to ensuring health care assistance, you will want to find ways to continue to connect to your loved one. Even simply talking to them can help.
  7. Very Severe Decline/Late-Stage Dementia. In late-stage dementia, your loved one will not remember anything of their past or recognize anyone they used to know. They will no longer be able to speak or eat by themselves and they will lose all bathroom function. They will require 24-hour assistance. Helping them with any daily tasks you can and continuing to talk to them can help out in a difficult situation.

Dealing with a loved one going through the stages of dementia can be an emotionally trying situation. That’s why it’s important to prepare ahead of time so you know what to expect. Working with a loved one to ensure that all their health care documents are in place, in particular, can help give you peace of mind. That way, if your parent or other relative does begin to experience cognitive decline, you can be sure you will have the authority to make financial and medical decisions for them, and be operating according to their wishes moving forward.

Contact Miller Estate & Elder Law

At Miller Estate and Elder Law, we have many years of experience helping clients navigate the complexities of the estate planning process. Having the right legal documents in place now can save you from a major headache later. Contact us today to get started providing for your and your family’s future, or complete the brief form below to download our free guide: The 5 Legal Documents Every Adult Needs.

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