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Opening up to dementia

View profile for Bill Pollinger
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With the number of people suffering from dementia on the rise, the theme for this year’s Dementia Awareness Week could not be more appropriate.  Running from the 14th to 20th May, this year the Alzheimer’s Society who organise the event, are asking people to open up about dementia.  The week will focus on encouraging people who are concerned they or a loved one are showing the initial signs of dementia to talk to someone about it, whether that be their doctor or Alzheimer’s Society.  Bill Pollinger, Private Client Lawyer, explains here why the week is so important in raising awareness of the initial signs of the disease, and how we can all take steps now to protect our families in the future.

The facts about dementia

“There are many common misconceptions about dementia, one of them being that the disease only affects the elderly,” begins Bill.  “This is certainly not the case, as unfortunately there are 40,000 people under the age of 65 living with dementia in the UK.  Figures are continuing to rise year by year, and it’s predicted that by 2025, one million people in the UK will have dementia.

“Another myth surrounding dementia is that it only impacts your memory, however this can vary from short or long term memory loss,” continues Bill.  “A person’s overall behaviour and demeanour can also change; they can have uncharacteristic mood swings, become easily confused or may have difficulty completing everyday tasks.  It’s these small details that can help spot the first signs of the disease and, while there currently isn’t a cure, early diagnosis will help determine the type of dementia they may have and can help families adjust together and take the necessary steps to prepare for the future.”

How can a Lasting Power of Attorney help?

While memory loss is the main consequence of dementia, families may not consider that this will one day mean that their family member will not be able to make decisions for themselves.  “This is called losing mental capacity,” explains Bill.  “It’s at this time that a Lasting Power of Attorney can mean the difference between a family easily taking control over their loved ones affairs or not.”

If a person loses mental capacity, without an LPA their assets will be frozen until an individual is appointed through a Court of Protection.  These can take months to process and so will cause unnecessary delay and stress.  There are two versions of a Lasting Power of Attorney; Personal Welfare or Property and Affairs.  A Personal Welfare LPA will cover decisions relating to a person’s health and social care, such as where they might live, day to day care, consent to medical treatment and their wishes regarding end of life treatment.  A Property and Affairs LPA covers all decision relating to the management of their finances, such as arrangements for investments, withdrawal of cash, payment of bills or selling a property. 

“While this may seem straight forward, setting up an LPA can be a complex procedure, and one that should be done once legal advice has been sought” concludes Bill.  “There are many ways that an LPA can be done incorrectly and elements can be overlooked, or there may be complications when deciding on who your attorneys should be.  We see many cases where a family member has lost their mental capacity through an illness such as dementia and an LPA either isn’t in place, it is not legally binding or unsuitable attorneys were chosen.  The consequences for the loved ones is devastating, as well as time consuming and easily avoidable.  A number of our Private Client team are Dementia Friends, meaning we have been trained in understanding the needs of those with dementia and their families.” 

If you are considering setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney, or considering other ways to protect your family’s future such as a Will or setting up a Trust, you can contact Bill or a member of the Private Client team 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.