Letters to the Editor

Voting rights with memory loss

For those caring for someone with memory loss, it’s important to know in this election year that people with memory loss keep all their rights as U.S. citizens including the right to vote, with a few exceptions, such as those who have been ruled incompetent by a judge.

As CEO of a network of rehabilitation and skilled nursing centers in Miami, and as a former Florida State Representative, I feel a special obligation to help caregivers understand how to navigate this issue.

Many caregivers wonder exactly what they can do. Can you vote on their behalf? (The quick answer is No.) What if I have power of attorney? (Still no).

What if they’re competent but their signature changes over time? (Just update a voter signature form before election time).

There are other ways you can help. A caregiver can assist someone with memory loss at the polls and even fill out the ballot with them, provided they do not try to influence the vote.

If your loved one is a resident of a long-term care facility, note that the facility’s address on voting forms might be flagged in the elections system as a commercial address.

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care provides more information in its Cognitive Impairment Voting Fact Sheet.

According to an Alzheimer’s Association 2014 election blog post, two conditions must be present for a person to vote. First, the voter must understand what they are doing, such as choosing between candidates. Second, the voter has to understand the process — that the person who receives the most votes wins. Another tip they offer — request a mail-in ballot in advance so your loved one can vote in a comfortable, familiar setting.

We encourage caregivers to protect voting rights for everyone, including loved ones with memory loss.

Elaine Bloom, president & CEO, Plaza Health Network, and former Speaker Pro-Tempore, Florida House of Representatives, Miami