Changes in Mental Capacity
Beginning in one’s fifties and sixties the mind’s abilities begin to shift. It helps to know some of the predictable patterns that follow.
Also, one’s ability to shift between multiple areas of thought, like discussing one legal matter and then quickly shifting to another, becomes more difficult. One can still practice with competence in light of these changes, but it requires adaptations. Adaptations may include increased office support, delegating work load, cutting back or allowing oneself more time to handle specific tasks.
Of course, these changes can be quite difficult and lead to negative outcomes in one’s practice and life. Problems like alcoholism, depression, grief, stress, and health problems can exacerbate the situation, leading to a more precipitous decline in mental functioning. While dementia does not normally begin to occur until one’s 70s or beyond, there are exceptions and it is worth remaining vigilant. Depression is often mistaken for dementia and vice versa.
The first step in treatment is to discuss your concerns with your primary care doctor. The next step often involves an evaluation with a geropsychologist. These tests of mental processing can indicate differential abilities, impairments in functioning, or serve as a useful baseline should decrements in functioning occur going forward. LAP providers are available to consult with you regarding these sensitive matters and can also provide you with referral resources.
For more information:
AARP has a Brain Health and Longevity section.
Life after retirement
Checklists for closing your practice
Approaches to exiting the practice
If you are having thoughts of suicide or experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 911 or the Crisis Clinic Hotline at 866-427-4747.
© 2015 Washington State Bar Association, all rights reserved.