Senior woman with her caregiver

Understanding How Dementia Affects Reasoning and Judgment

If your senior loved one has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia or another form of memory loss, you’re likely to have many questions about their prognosis, especially as it relates to their capacity to make decisions. It’s commonly understood that dementia involves issues of memory loss, but how is thinking and reasoning affected by dementia? Is poor judgment a sign of dementia? Learn the answers to these questions and more below.

How Does Dementia Affect Judgment?

Unfortunately, for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, reasoning and judgment can be heavily impacted depending on the progression of the disease; in fact, sometimes poor judgment, a key characteristic of Alzheimer’s, can precede memory loss as an early symptom of the disease. Poor judgment is not simply defined as a bad decision made by an individual; it’s more complex than that. Poor judgment refers more to a consistent inability to make appropriate decisions – a pattern of questionable decisions, rather than a single poor decision. When considering indicators of impaired judgment and problem-solving abilities, it’s important to take into account major categories of poor judgment, examples of which include:

  • The inability to accurately recognize dangerous situations or determine the limits of safety for oneself or others.
  • The inability to properly and accurately monitor one’s personal finances.
  • The inability to maintain levels of proper hygiene or standards of appearance (i.e., dressing or clothing).
  • The inability to safely drive or transport oneself from one location to another.
  • Inappropriate social interactions, including being overtly flirtatious or uncharacteristically rude.

All of these are considered major indicators of impaired judgment and problem-solving abilities. But does having bad judgment mean a person is no longer capable of making a legal decision?

Can a person with dementia make legal decisions?

The answer to this question is complex. The ability to make decisions for oneself is called having capacity. A person with Alzheimer’s, dementia or another form of memory loss does not simply lose the capacity to make decisions upon receiving their diagnosis, nor does making a questionable decision here and there mean they are legally incapable of making decisions. Capacity is time and decision specific; at the start of an individual’s diagnosis, they might be perfectly capable of making sound decisions most of the time. However, as their dementia progresses, so too might their capacity. Likewise, it is possible for someone who does not presently have the capacity to make a decision to eventually gain the capacity to make a decision down the road, if their condition improves. Capacity is truly dependent upon the individual and the type of dementia with which they’ve been diagnosed.

Legally, an individual is deemed to have capacity if they can understand their present situation, the decision they are needing to make, and the consequences of their choice when making the decision. They also must be able to explain and express their reasoning behind their choice in the decision-making process without relying on information or reasoning that would strike most sound individuals as bizarre or outlandish. Even if an individual has named a spouse, family member or another person as their power of attorney, they are still able to make legal decisions if they are shown to have legal capacity as previously defined. However, it’s important to note that each state determines its own legal standards for capacity, and these requirements can vary based on type of capacity in question.

The Hillsboro Difference

If your loved one is experiencing early warning signs of dementia, including issues of poor judgment, contact our team at Hillsboro Rehabilitation and Health Care Center to see how we can help. Not only does our Hillsboro, Illinois, community offer rehabilitative services, post-surgical recovery and wound care, but we also offer Courtyard Memory Care for your loved ones with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other forms of memory loss. It’s our mission to treat your loved ones with the utmost respect, patience and kindness while offering a sense of purpose and pleasure.

Our licensed, experienced staff will get to know your loved one on a personal level, establishing a friendly relationship with them and making sure to stay in close contact with your family so you are kept up to date regarding their treatment. Our safe and home-like environment allows you to enjoy peace of mind with the knowledge that your loved one is spending each day in a secure, comfortable community filled with enriching activities and a caring staff.

Reach out today to learn what a memory care community like Hillsboro can offer. Call us at 217-532-6191. We look forward to answering your questions!