One of the most difficult realizations is when you notice a loved one exhibiting signs of memory problems. You may have noticed that a family member is missing monthly payments regularly or has started having trouble conversing. Perhaps they consistently forget the name of a long-time friend, or they don’t remember when your birthday is.

Typical age-related changes can explain away some of these “forgetfulness” aspects. However, when you notice that these changes occur regularly or have been a steady part of your loved one’s life for years, you may need to revisit what could be causing them.

Understanding What is a Result of Aging, and What Isn’t

Aging causes various changes in everyone; it’s an inevitable part of getting older. As we age, we may find it more challenging to handle physical tasks like going on runs or climbing stairs. This is also true for cognitive tasks like remembering phone numbers or misplacing items.

However, it’s important to distinguish between a typical aspect of aging and what can’t be explained by aging alone. Misplacing an item is a typical aspect of aging, but consistently losing keys, cell phones, or important documents without being able to relocate them is not. Forgetting what word to use in a conversation sometimes is normal, but having trouble carrying on a conversation is not. When cognitive health problems negatively affect a loved one’s day-to-day life, that is not a typical sign of aging.

Know When and How to Have a Conversation

If you believe it may be time to talk to your loved one about their cognitive health, you should ask yourself a couple of questions. Are you the right person to talk about this? Do they think their memory problems are a natural product of aging? Could they be scared about what those changes mean?

Knowing that your memory is failing and not being able to do anything about it can be a terrifying thought. Before you decide to have a conversation, try picking a familiar place, like their home or a favorite coffee shop. Choose a time when you won’t be rushed or interrupted, and choose your words carefully. This conversation may be the first step for your loved one to realize something significant is happening. Handling this as delicately as possible can go a long way in maintaining the trust and safety your loved one feels when talking with you.

Talk to a Doctor

Consider talking to a doctor if you or your loved one is concerned about persistent cognitive concerns or memory loss. They’ll likely ask you questions and conduct a couple of tests to help you determine the cause and degree of your family member’s memory loss.

Getting a prompt diagnosis is crucial because you can start working on the next steps. You will be able to begin treatment and manage symptoms, and you will be able to connect with community resources. This will also allow you to finish making any legal or financial plans before any potential condition worsens. While a diagnosis may feel overwhelming, at least having an answer will provide some peace of mind.

Get Started with Your Estate Planning Early

Struggling with the idea of a loved one exhibiting memory problems is difficult. The niggling fear of “what if” at the back of your mind suddenly rushes to the forefront. By the time a family member starts showing these symptoms, it may be too late to create an Estate Plan. Be proactive. Save yourself the heartache and stress later on.

While you and your loved ones are still in good health and of sound mind, meet with an Estate Planning attorney to create your Relational Estate Plan®. This can help to prevent alarm and frustration later on. Not only will you be able to prepare for your loved one’s future, but you’ll also ease your family’s minds by having a plan in place.

[Related Reading: 5 Reasons to Create Your End-of-Life Plan]

When you start to notice signs that a loved one is struggling with their cognitive functions, it can feel like you don’t have a path forward. However, there are ways that you and your loved ones can prepare for this eventuality in advance.

If you’re interested in creating your own Relational Estate Plan, we would love to help. Contact us to get started with your Estate Plan today!



Joshua E. Hummer, Esq. is the founder of Relational Estate & Elder Law, and he has been a practicing attorney for over 15 years. While experienced in many parts of the law, Josh specializes in estate planning, estate administration, and elder law. He is licensed in both Virginia and West Virginia. Josh’s passion lies in helping people gain peace of mind about the future through holistic legal planning. When he isn’t meeting with clients or crafting legal documents, Josh enjoys spending time with his lovely wife, Jill, and their four vibrant children.


Disclaimer: The information you obtain in this post is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. This blog shares general best practices when navigating Virginia or West Virginia law, but you should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.