Planning for a future with dementia
Dementia is a brain disorder that triggers a loss of brain function which is usually progressive and eventually severe. The most well-known of these is Alzheimer’s disease which affects about 62 per cent of those diagnosed. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, with numbers expected to rise to over 1 million by 2021. The advice from charities caring for the elderly is that everyone should plan ahead for a time when they might not be in a position to handle their own financial affairs, or deal with decisions about their care.
Putting things in order
If you’ve been diagnosed with dementia, make sure all your important papers can be found easily. These might include bank and building society statements, mortgage documents, insurance policies, your Will, tax and pension details, bills and guarantees. Consider setting up direct debits or standing orders to pay your regular bills, so they’ll be automatically be paid each month.
The importance of mental capacity
A diagnosis of dementia doesn’t automatically mean you have lost ‘mental capacity’. It will depend on how far the condition has progressed. Having mental capacity means being able to make informed decisions for yourself about important matters such as your Will, your finances and care. If you’re diagnosed with dementia but haven’t lost mental capacity and don’t already have a Will, then it makes sense to make one as soon as possible. If you already have one, then it’s a good idea to check that it still reflects your wishes.
You should also consider drawing up and registering a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). There are two types, one that deals with property and finances, and the other regarding decisions regarding health and welfare. These documents allow you to specify who you would want to act on your behalf if you were unable to take decisions yourself. You can arrange for a property and financial affairs LPA to be used while you still have mental capacity, but a health and welfare LPA can only be used when you’ve lost capacity.
Applying for Deputyship
If someone is diagnosed with dementia and has already lost mental capacity, then it won’t be possible to make an LPA. Instead, someone will need to apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order. This can be a lengthy and expensive process, so it’s advisable to take action quickly if someone receives a diagnosis of dementia and their symptoms are not severe.
Advance care planning
Making decisions now about how you’d wish to be treated towards the end of your life can make things easier for you and those around you. An Advance Decision, also referred to as a living Will, lets you say what type of medical treatment you wouldn’t want to receive in certain situations, and is only used if you can’t make or communicate the decision yourself.
An Advance Statement allows you to set out your likes and dislikes and how you would like to be treated, and means that you state preferences such as what sort of food you like, the people you would want to be consulted about your care, or anything else that would help those who support you. A health and welfare Lasting Power of Attorney can also be drafted so as to cover issues such as this but it’s important to seek proper advice as to how the document is worded so as to avoid problems.
When someone receives a diagnosis of dementia, it can be a devastating blow for them and their families, and it’s extremely important to get the right legal documents in place as early as possible.
Here to help
Our Wills, Trusts & Probate team are on hand to answer any questions you may have. Please call us on 0330 221 8855, or contact us online.