This article is not a medical treatise on dementia, but rather the options that you do have when it comes to this issue both legally and in wellness.
I used to volunteer at a nursing home and one of the ladies I would visit was suffering from MS. She had an incredibly sharp mind, but she was limited in her physical movements and even speech was difficult for her. There was another lady who I would often see in the common area who was in great physical shape, but she had full blown dementia. When you just looked at both women, without speaking with them, you would think that the former woman was in a worse off position, but she still had the ability to make decisions for herself; and therefore, had control over the decisions affecting her life.
I think one of the fears surrounding aging and dementia is the inability to make decisions for oneself. With a durable power of attorney, you can choose who can handle your affairs, especially financial, if you lost your mental capacity. If you choose to have a durable power of attorney, you can and should choose someone who would handle your affairs as you would handle them and in your best interest, which while not ideal, is still a semblance of you maintaining control via the agent you have chosen. A line I heard my legal mentor tell clients is that when you sign a durable power of attorney you are giving someone the keys to go to Vegas and spend it all because your agent is essentially stepping into your shoes to handle and sign documents that you would sign. The extent of the powers is provided by the language of the durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney can only be signed when someone has full mental capacity and understands what they are signing; therefore, if an individual has dementia they cannot sign a durable power of attorney.
In addition to the legal option of maintaining control in light of dementia, studies have shown that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that participants of the study, who were older than 55 with mild cognitive impairment, experienced improvements in verbal memory for up to six months after practicing yoga over a 12-week period. Brain scans showed an increase in neural connectivity in the part of the brain where memories are stored and complex decisions are made. Therefore, given this study and others, it would appear as though physical activity can help you to maintain control over your life, by maintaining control over your health and mental functions.
In closing, the purpose of this post is to show that aging doesn’t have to mean loss of choices or control. We have options at our disposal, in the form of a durable power of attorney where we can choose who can be our agent, and we can also choose to engage in physical activities to help preserve our mental functions.
If you are interested in the article from the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, the link is below.