When a diagnosis of dementia is confirmed, you will have to make many decisions about the future. By planning ahead, you can ensure that you’ll get the type of healthcare you want and that people who you love and trust have a say in your welfare. If you leave the paperwork until later you may be considered unfit, and decisions could be made on your behalf that you don’t agree with. This is why it’s important to contact an elderly care solicitor as soon as possible to help you make the correct arrangements.
Here we outline some healthcare and legal matters you should consider after being diagnosed with dementia.
Care needs assessment
Some people with dementia may be eligible for free or low-cost care provided by their local authority. To find out if you’re eligible, you must first have a care needs assessment. These can be arranged by contacting the social services department at your local council or having someone contact them on your behalf. They will send a list of questions in advance, and you will usually have a few days to consider what type of care you need around the house. You can be as detailed as you wish. During the assessment, a social worker or another council official will ask you how you are managing with everyday tasks and document what you struggle with.
If your assessment concludes that you need care, there will then be a financial assessment to see if the council should cover some or all of the costs. Together, these assessments will help you understand how much your care is likely to cost and how much assistance you can get. In turn, this may affect other decisions you make about your finances.
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your care needs assessment, you have the right to complain to the council. For example, you may think they underestimated the amount of help you need or overvalued your assets. It’s advisable to get independent legal advice before challenging a decision so that the right steps can be taken.
Advance decisions (Living Will)
An advance decision is a document which specifies what kind of care or treatment you would like to receive (or reject) in the future. It should describe the circumstances under which certain treatments should be given or refused: for example, you might specify what should happen if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Although you can write your own advance decision, it’s best to consult a solicitor to ensure there are no errors. Your advance decision will only be legally binding if it meets the following criteria:
- The document must be valid, which means the advance decision was written when you had mental capacity.
- The requests must be applicable. The wording should be clear, and the correct medical terms should be used for conditions and treatments.
- When writing the advance decision, you must be aware of the consequences of refusing treatment if that is your request.
- If your advance decision relates to life-saving treatment, it must be signed and witnessed by someone who would not benefit from your death, such as your solicitor.
Will and Testament
It’s still possible to write your Will after being diagnosed with dementia, provided you are mentally capable. This can be proven by including documentation from a medical professional confirming your mental state, preventing it from being contested after you pass away. If you get a solicitor to write your Will, you also eliminate the possibility of making small errors which might otherwise invalidate the whole document.
Lasting Power of Attorney
As dementia progresses, it’s likely that you eventually won’t be able to make decisions for yourself. You can officially appoint one or more people to make decisions for you in the future; this is called making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), and it means the people responsible for your care and finances are people who you trust and have chosen for yourself. When you make your LPA you must be regarded as having mental capacity, so the decision should be made as soon as possible after a diagnosis of dementia has been confirmed.
You can appoint an attorney to handle your health and care decisions, your financial decisions, or both. As long as your attorney is over 18 they can be anyone you trust, such as your partner, your child, a friend or your solicitor. Most importantly you should choose someone who is responsible and will act in your best interests.
If you are concerned that your attorney may at some point also become unable to make their own decisions, you can specify who should take over from them.
Foys, the elderly care solicitors
At Foys Solicitors, we know that every person with dementia is different and that there is no one way of coping with dementia. Your individual care needs and your wishes should be documented so that you can focus on yourself and your loved ones rather than worry about what will happen in the future.
Our services are always tailored to the individual, and we will help you recognise what options are available to you – and we’ll do our best to make sure you understand the legal process by explaining everything without confusing jargon.
If you need legal advice regarding any aspects of dementia, use our Online Form to get in touch. Alternatively, contact your local Foys Solicitors office:
Doncaster – 01302 327 136
Retford – 01777 703 100
Worksop – 01909 500 511
Clowne – 01246 810 050
Rotherham – 01709 375 561
Sheffield (Waterthorpe) – 0114 251 1702
Sheffield (Chapeltown) – 0114 246 7609
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