Waiting to plan for the future may cost you more than you think
By Daniel Russell
World Alzheimer’s Month is now at an end and it’s been interesting to see where the focus has been in the debate about a condition that is, or can be, one of the most distressing imaginable.
For those who have Alzheimer’s or who are forced to watch and care for someone with it, the relentless ability of dementia to rob individuals of a sense of self and couples and families of shared experiences is emotionally catastrophic.
For others, it is a genuinely terrifying spectre that casts a long shadow over their journey through later life. In relatively recent surveys about such things, it is the cold touch of dementia, rather than cancer, that the majority of people most fervently hope to avoid.
That being the case, it’s not surprising to find that a significant proportion of the information, case studies, advice and statistics shared about Alzheimer’s Disease during September has tended to concentrate on the practical issues around living with the condition, either as a patient or carer.
From how to manage early symptoms as a sufferer to the frustrations, challenges and emotional toll of caring for someone whose lucid moments are at best fleeting and infrequent, one of the benefits of World Alzheimer’s Month and other awareness campaigns is that there is now no shortage of knowledge and experience for people to access.
There has been less talk, though, about the financial and medical practicalities that come into play when someone finds themselves unable to make the day-to-day decisions they once did.
In strictly legal terms, once someone’s dementia (or other mental or physical illness that precludes either rational decision-making or the ability to communicate it) has progressed to a point at which they are no longer considered, from a medical point of view, to be capable of rational decision, they are deemed to lack mental capacity.
Without having made alternative arrangements whilst having the mental capacity to do so, important decisions relating to the financial or medical interests of the patient would in all likelihood be delegated to a formally-appointed representative – often an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate or, in more complex cases or where there is conflict within the immediate family, to the Court of Protection.
Taking time when you’re fit and well to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a smart move because it reduces the scope for conflict and gives the authorities a clear indication of your intentions if that LPA is challenged.
There are two types of LPA – one dealing with decisions about your health and care, the other making provision for decisions about your financial assets. An LPA is a legal document that would, in most cases, be supported by the courts.
The process involved in establishing an LPA is relatively straightforward and requires you to choose someone you trust to make key decisions about your care and/or financial assets when you’re no longer able to do that for yourself. It also allows you to record specific wishes relating to any particular aspect of your wealth and medical care.
The reality is that as humans we don’t like to think about our own mortality or the decline of our mental faculties. In fact, we’re programmed not to think about it, which probably also explains why half the adults living in the UK don’t have a Will. But ensuring you and the people you care about have some protection when things go wrong is sensible and can save a tremendous amount of heartache at a time that is already very distressing.
If you’d like to find out more about how a Lasting Power of Attorney works and why it might benefit you and the people close to you, why not get in touch for a confidential chat with one of our specialist solicitors?