Dementia Awareness – We’re Here to Help
Perhaps our worst fear as humans, aside from death itself, is loss of control. Losing the ability to control our mind and functions and relying on others for our basic needs. Being entirely dependant on others and the devastating impact that would have, both to ourselves and to those who love and care for us.
Being diagnosed with a dementia related illness can be terrifying and will undoubtedly provoke the whole range of human emotions from anxiety to vulnerability. As a range of illnesses it is often poorly understood. It is undoubtedly a progressive and life changing condition, but it affects different people in different ways. You may have recognised a decline in your memory or mental abilities but in many ways you may feel as capable and competent as you ever were, and determined to retain your independence for as long as possible. In fact many people suffering from dementia continue to work and live independent lives. Yet others may assume from the diagnosis that you are immediately incapable of managing your affairs.
A diagnosis of dementia does not automatically mean that you are incapable of living independently, managing your affairs or making arrangements for the future
Making a will and writing down your wishes while you are able to, and making a power of attorney to help you with decision making processes, can offer a sense of empowerment at a time when you may feel particularly demoralised and misunderstood. It is a mechanism to ensure that your thoughts and wishes are recorded and recognised, while you are still able to communicate them. Organising your financial and legal affairs while you are able to do so ensures that you retain control. Making a will or appointing a trusted person to manage your affairs provides comfort and peace of mind which leaves you better able to tackle the day to day issues and to enjoy other aspects of your life free of worry.
While you have mental capacity, you can set up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to give someone you trust the authority to make important decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so. This person is known as an attorney. An LPA gives your attorney authority to make decisions and take action on your behalf about certain matters. You can restrict or specify the types of decisions that the attorney can make, or you can allow the attorney to make all decisions on your behalf. A property and affairs LPA can be used while you still have capacity (if you allow it) and will continue to be valid if you were no longer able to make your own decisions.
If you want to test the water first you could set up an Ordinary Power of Attorney, which gives someone else the power to handle your financial affairs for you but is only valid while you have mental capacity to make decisions about your finances, so you can keep an eye on what the attorney is doing.
The role of attorney involves a great deal of power and responsibility, so make sure you think carefully about who you choose. You must be able to trust them to make decisions in your best interests.
In order to avoid any potential challenges to your will or Power or Attorney on the grounds of capacity (or otherwise) it is always wise to consult a solicitor, rather than an unregulated and uninsured wills writing company. It is essential that you advise them of your condition and they will then take the necessary steps to assess your capacity to make a will. Best practice is that wherever possible your will should be witnessed by a medical practitioner who is satisfied with your capacity and will record their findings. This will make your will or Power of Attorney very difficult to challenge in the future on the basis of your capacity and ensure that your wishes are adhered to.
But what if things go wrong? First and foremost you should recognise there are lots of people and organisations out there to help you and your loved ones through your journey and you are not alone.
As your condition progresses you may feel increasingly isolated, depressed and vulnerable. You may be worried about your future. You might become more trusting and reliant on those who care for you. You may find yourself vulnerable to the influences of family or friends and sadly in some cases this can lead to financial abuse and exploitation. You may suspect wrongdoing but accept it because you are fearful of being abandoned, overwhelmed by the prospect of reporting it or worried that you might not be believed. Or your loved ones may suspect that another person is manipulating or influencing your decisions unduly.
If you or your family suspect any wrongdoing or if you are worried that your attorney or deputy is not making decisions in your best interests you should consult with a solicitor who specialises in advising the elderly and those with dementia to discuss your concerns.
We at Wolferstans are working hard to ensure that a full suite of legal services are always available to those with dementia, their carers and families, and that there is full access to such legal advice irrespective of any diagnosis or difficulty. We are proud that we will be one of the first affiliated ‘Dementia Friendly’ firms in Plymouth, when Plymouth is officially recognised as the first Dementia Friendly City in England.
We have a dedicated private client team who are all skilled and experienced in working with elderly clients, those with head and brain injuries, and those with dementia. The team is headed up by Samantha Buckthought, who is one of only 65 national Panel Deputies for the Court of Protection. In addition we are developing in-house training across all areas of the legal services that we offer to ensure that anyone who requires access to advice can be handled with sensitivity and compassion reflective of their needs. This extends also to policies to aid any staff member who may suffer from dementia or related illness or who may be a carer. We are striving to ensure that access to legal advisers becomes easier and more manageable for those with dementia.
Talking about dementia and your diagnosis is about taking control of your future – let us help you to do just that, contact us on 01752 663295.