If your parent or grandparent suffers from dementia, you may worry about developing the condition when you are older. While not all people inherit dementia from family members, doctors generally encourage people to consider this risk factor. After watching your loved one struggle with the changes, you may feel compelled to ensure you have safeguards in place, just in case.

AARP recommends powers of attorney for anyone 18 years or older. These documents are useful for future sufferers of dementia, but also serve the same protective role in other instances where you may lose the opportunity to make decisions for yourself.

The main POAs to get in place

There are three types of powers of attorney documents to choose from. Some people use a combination of these to award different powers or responsibilities to various members of the family:

  • Durable powers of attorney provide limited or generous authority to the chosen agent to act on your legal or financial behalf.
  • General powers of attorney provide generous levels of authority to the chosen agent for legal and financial matters.
  • Specific powers of attorney provide very specific and usually temporary roles to the named agent(s), such as paying bills or managing financial portfolios.

Why POAs are so important

When someone can no longer make decisions for themselves, family members often struggle to determine what the person would have chosen for themselves. Sometimes, family members also fight over their own personal preferences in how to handle the matter. Powers of attorney help reduce the friction and simplify the decision-making process by deciding who gets the final say.

There are also several other documents that may improve your chances of ensuring your family members respect your wishes. These include trusts, healthy proxies and medical directives.