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How a Lasting Power of Attorney can protect you in light of a diagnosis of dementia

View profile for Caroline Johnstone
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Adapting to a new way of life over the last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging for us all, but for those with dementia or those with a loved one with the disease, this has taken on a whole new meaning.   This Dementia Awareness Week the spotlight is being thrown onto how the social care system supports those following a diagnosis, which has been highlighted even more due to the restrictions imposed.  Caroline Johnstone, Associate Solicitor in our Private Client department, explains more here about Dementia Awareness Week, as well as how Covid-19 has impacted those living with the disease, and how certain legal steps can help protect you and your loved ones in the future.

What is Dementia Awareness Week?

Dementia Awareness Week is an annual event organised by The Alzheimer’s Society to raise awareness of the reality those diagnosed face every day in a bid move towards a more understanding, accepting society.  The focus of the event this year is to bring attention to the social care system that works with those with dementia, as the coronavirus pandemic has shown there are areas of underfunding and a lack of resources to adequately offer the right level of support during moments of national crisis and beyond.

“Unfortunately, one in three of us will develop dementia in our lives and by 2025, there will be one million people living with dementia,” begins Caroline.  “It is likely that we have all been touched by this disease at some point in our lives, whether we face a diagnosis ourselves or we know someone who has, which is why it is all of our duties to work together and create a dementia friendly society.”

How has Covid-19 impacted those living with dementia?

During the series of lockdowns that were introduced to control the spread of coronavirus, it was clear that for some they would prove particularly challenging.  The most well known symptom of dementia is loss of memory, and so those living with the disease are more likely to forget about the restrictions in place.  Other consequences also include changes to mood and irritability, disorientation and confusion, loss of inhibitions and difficulties adapting to new routines.

“When faced with the restrictions such as wearing face masks, handwashing and social distancing, it can understandably be challenging for someone with dementia to either remember to adhere to these rules or to understand why they are needed,” continues Caroline.  “For those who have been in a residential home during the pandemic, a lack of seeing their loved ones will have had a detrimental impact on their mental and physical health.” 

Even though lockdown has now come to an end and restrictions are starting to ease, it is likely that we will be living with the impact of Covid-19 for some time, and so it is important to continue to safeguard your loved ones with dementia to ensure their continued health.

Why should I have a Lasting Power of Attorney?

Having a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is essential for anyone who has been diagnosed with dementia.  There are two LPAs available:

  • Health and care decisions LPA – this document will indicate decisions regarding your daily arrangements such as where you will live, day to day care, medical treatments etc.
  • Financial decisions LPA – this document will confirm your arrangements for your property, investments, cash, bills etc.

“These are such important documents to complete when you have mental capacity to do so, as they allow you to choose who will be appointed as an attorney for you and how you will live your life,” explains Caroline.  “Without an LPA, should you need decisions to be made for you, your loved ones will need to apply to become a Deputy, which is a lengthy and timely process, bringing additional burden and confusion to them at a time when they will wish to focus on your care.”

It may be tempting in these situations to complete an online LPA; however obtaining legal advice is always the recommended route.  Experienced Solicitors will be able to advise you as to your rights, raise questions with you that you may not have considered and ensure that the document is legally binding to reduce the risk of financial abuse.

In addition to having an LPA, you should also consider writing your Will, or updating it if you already have one.  One of the criteria for a valid Will is that the individual has mental capacity and is therefore aware of their decisions, the consequences of those decisions and the contents of the Will, so as long as you can still prove you have mental capacity, you can write or update your Will.

What are the symptoms of dementia?

There are various forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, and each of these will display different symptoms in different people, with some worsening over time while others may not progress.  Being aware of some of the more common symptoms can make all the difference in receiving an early diagnosis, which includes but is not limited to:

  • Memory loss;
  • Difficulty with concentration;
  • Struggling to complete tasks that form part of your normal routine;
  • Difficulty holding a conversation;
  • Mood swings and heightened irritability;
  • Confusion around words, numbers, times and dates.

“If you have been diagnosed with dementia, we know that you will have a whole host of questions and will be feeling vulnerable and concerned for your future and that of your nearest and dearest,” concludes Caroline.  “It’s important that at this time you reach out for the right support, whether that is from family, friends, local support groups, carers or legal advice to provide you with peace of mind that your affairs are in order.”

To discuss writing your LPA or updating your Will with Caroline or a member of the team, you can contact us today on 01329 222075 or email privateclientenquiry@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.