If you have recently been diagnosed with dementia, or this has happened to somebody close to you, it can seem scary at first and the future can seem very uncertain. At some point though, you will want to consider what kind of support is required so that life can carry on as unchanged as possible.
What is dementia?
The Alzheimer’s Society definition of dementia is: ‘a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. These changes are often small to start with, but for someone living with dementia they have become severe enough to affect daily life. A person with dementia may also experience changes in their mood or behaviour.’
Have an LPA in place
Hopefully, the person living with dementia will already have put lasting powers of attorney (LPA) in place before being diagnosed. This makes managing someone’s affairs much more straightforward, as it pre-authorises a trusted person or persons (known as attorneys) to provide immediate help wherever and whenever it’s needed. Without an LPA, there will most likely be a significant waiting period before anybody has the right to make decisions for the person with dementia.
What is an LPA?
A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows you to choose the people who will be able to make decisions for you about, for example, your finances, health, care or housing, if you become unable to make these decisions yourself, or if you no longer wish to make certain decisions for yourself. People usually choose trusted friends or family members as their attorneys. For extra security, or so that you always have someone who can act for you when an attorney is ill or on holiday, you can choose two or more attorneys. When you have more than one attorney, you can also say whether they have to act together in every decision, or are able to act separately for some or all decisions. If you feel that you have no suitable friends or relatives to ask, or if you simply prefer to keep your affairs private from friends and family, you can ask a professional such as a solicitor to be your attorney, but you should be aware that professional attorneys will charge for acting on your behalf. Whoever you choose, however, they must only make decisions which are in your best interests and they must do so without taking into account their own personal wishes and preferences.
There are two types of LPA:
- a ‘Property and Financial Affairs’ LPA, which covers matters such as dealing with state benefits or bank accounts, investing money, or buying and selling property
- a ‘health and welfare’ LPA, which enables your attorneys to make decisions about things like your medical care, where you live, or what you should eat.
An LPA can only be made when you still have sufficient mental capacity to do so, so the sooner you take action the better, particularly if you have already been diagnosed with dementia. We recommend that you have both types of LPA in place as they focus on two separate and distinct areas of your life.
If there isn’t an LPA
If there isn’t an LPA in place, and you no longer have capacity to make one, then an application may need to be made to the Court of Protection to appoint somebody as a “deputy”. A deputy has similar rights to those given by an LPA, but the application procedure is much more complex, intrusive and expensive. It is also lengthy and, whilst the application is being prepared or is with the court, nobody has the right to take care of the person’s affairs. This can result in considerable delays with, for example, paying bills, arranging care, or organising state benefits, which can cause additional distress at what may already be a difficult time for the person living with dementia and those close to them.
How can I find out more information?
If you would like to discuss any of the above or to find out more information, please contact us on 0800 614 722 to speak to one of our specialist legal professionals, or visit our local office.