Solicitor and Dementia Friend, Vanessa Swales, looks at the legal issues affecting people diagnosed with dementia.
There are an estimated 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. Numbers are set to rise to over 1 million by 2025 and a staggering 2 million by 2051.
Slee Blackwell is dedicated to supporting people affected by dementia. All solicitors in our private client department have trained as Dementia Friends, a volunteering initiative designed to raise awareness and understanding of dementia.
Following a diagnosis of dementia, it is important for a person to organise their financial and legal affairs as soon as possible as there may come a time when they are no longer able to make certain decisions for themselves.
One way of planning ahead is to make a Lasting Power of Attorney. A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint a person or people of your choice to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. You can make plans so that your future care and finances are handled in a way that reflects your wishes. There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney; ‘health and welfare’ and ‘property and financial affairs’. You can choose to make both types of Lasting Power of Attorney or just one.
It is advisable for everyone to make a Will; it allows you to choose who inherits your money and possessions and will save your family unnecessary distress at an already difficult time. A diagnosis of dementia does not necessarily mean that you cannot make a Will or change it. It depends whether you understand the decisions you are making and the implications of any changes. This is known as ‘testamentary capacity’ and your solicitor will be able to advise you about this. Where there is doubt about someone’s testamentary capacity it is often necessary for a medical assessment to be carried out by a health professional, which again is something that your solicitor will be able to advise on and arrange if necessary.
Although it may be difficult to think about the future following a diagnosis of dementia, it can be reassuring to know that you have made your wishes and preferences clear and have people around you who will be able to make decisions in your best interest. Because our lawyers are trained Dementia Friends they are well placed to understand the issues you are facing and will be able to offer specialist legal guidance.
The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme aims to change the public’s perception of dementia and transform the way we view the condition. The initiative involves learning about dementia and how you can help sufferers and their families. There are now more than one million Dementia Friends in England and Wales all of whom are committed to promoting a greater understanding of dementia and highlighting ways we can all help people who are living with the condition.
The Alzheimer’s Society has the long term aim of creating four million Dementia Friends by 2020. The Society works with individuals and organisations of all sizes, both public and private. We wholeheartedly endorse the scheme and would urge anyone who is interested to get involved.
If you would like help or guidance on legal issues affecting people suffering from dementia or their loved ones then you can call our free helpline on freephone 0808 139 1606. Alternatively you can contact solicitor Vanessa Swales or any of her colleagues in the team direct by email.