An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association 2011 report. This neurological illness creates a dementia that slowly damages the brain, eroding the ability to think, speak, remember facts and walk. If you are caring for an Alzheimer's patient, you may eventually need to obtain a power of attorney, a legal document that allows you to conduct your family member's affairs when he has trouble carrying out routine activities such paying bills or answering letters.
Learn about the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The Alzheimer's Association lists the following warning signals: loss of memory, trouble problem solving or planning, difficulty completing familiar tasks at home and at work, confusion about places and times, forgetting words, misplacing objects, changes in personality or mood and withdrawal from social activities or work.
Buy a notebook and create a daily, detailed record of your loved one's symptoms.
Make an appointment for your loved one and yourself with your loved one's general practitioner. Show the physician the symptoms journal that you have been keeping. After the general practitioner does a preliminary examination, get a referral for your loved one to a specialist medical team for a full Alzheimer's disease evaluation.
Make sure that the medical team sends a letter clearly stating the Alzheimer's disease diagnosis to your loved one's general practitioner. Get a copy of the medical team's letter from the general practitioner.
Contact your city or county bar association for a list of eldercare lawyers.
Contact at least four eldercare attorneys by email or phone. Make an appointment with the attorney who seems most compatible with you and your loved one. Fill out the attorney's initial client intake paperwork before the appointment and submit it by email to the lawyer.
Bring your loved one, your symptoms notebook, and the Alzheimer's disease diagnosis letter to the appointment with the eldercare attorney. Your attorney may decide that your loved one is not legally competent to sign the power of attorney, meaning that his mental condition has deteriorated to the extent that he cannot understand the power of attorney document. If the lawyer is satisfied that your loved one is legally competent and that the documents that you have brought to the meeting are sufficiently detailed, he will prepare a power of attorney and ask your loved one to sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are not related to you or to each other. Ask the lawyer for the original of the signed power of attorney for yourself. Your loved one and your lawyer should each retain copies of it.
Discuss with your attorney other legal alternatives for supervision of your loved one's affairs -- such as a guardianship -- if your loved one is not legally competent to sign a power of attorney.
Ask your lawyer if the power of attorney needs to be registered with a local court. Ordinarily, a power of attorney does not have to be registered with a local court, but your lawyer may have to file it with a local court if the power of attorney gives you the right to sell, lease or control your loved one's real estate. The power of attorney may also need to be registered with a court to retain validity in other special circumstances.