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The changes that come with aging may be challenging for many Maryland families. Watching a parent or loved one move from one stage of life into the next can be very emotional. Many aging adults go through a stage that is known as "the grey zone," which is the point between being competent and incompetent. It is at or prior to this point that families may benefit from establishing an estate plan, including a power of attorney.

In some cases, impairment may be temporary. In others, it may be the first signs of Alzheimer's disease or dementia. In either case, families experiencing such a situation may be inclined to help their loved begin, or follow through with the estate planning process.

Cognitive impairment affects many aspects of life. Tasks that have always been considered routine may become challenging. Other behaviors or routines may be forgotten. Individuals who are cognitively impaired are the unfortunate victims of billions of dollars worth of financial crimes such as scams and fraud. They need protection and guidance, which is what a well-drafted power of attorney may provide.

It may be easy for families to deny that their loved one is impaired, though the reality is quite common. What is important is that families take the time to help their loved one prepare for their future. Having a family meeting with the assistance of a mediator can help ease tension. In addition, individuals who are resistant to a family's urging may require the intervention of professionals before there is an event requiring decision making on their behalf.

Having an estate plan, complete with a power of attorney, can make a tremendous difference in the outcome when a loved one can no longer care for themselves. Maryland families may take heart in knowing that a power of attorney has been established so that if or when decisions do need to be made, there are guidelines. No family wants to face uncertainty and dispute in the midst of a difficult time, which is why proper estate planning is such an important option.

Source: Forbes, ""The Grey Zone": How to Handle Partially Incompetent Aging Parents," Carolyn Rosenblatt, Sept. 5, 2012

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