Making arrangements after a diagnosis of dementia

Having a good understanding of a neurodegenerative disease like dementia and its implications can help you to plan for the future.

For many people with dementia, chances are they have been wondering what is happening to their memory and concentration for some time before a diagnosis is made. When the medical professional finally confirms that they have a neurodegenerative disease like dementia, some may actually feel relieved, while others may find the diagnosis hard to accept.
Processing and owning your emotions are key. More importantly, if you know how the illness will affect your life, you can start to make plans now. By being in control now, you will feel less anxious about the future. In this article, our elderly care solicitors aim to highlight nine important steps you can take following a diagnosis of dementia.

What is dementia?

The Alzheimer’s Association says it best and we quote “dementia is an overall term for diseases and conditions characterised by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.”

The signs of dementia

Many types of dementia are progressive – the symptoms start out slowly but get worse as time goes by. The moment you notice something is not quite right in yourself or a family member, do not assume it is a normal part of ageing. Instead, see a medical professional as soon as possible because early diagnosis means you can access treatments or interventions that help slow down the disease.

Early signs that a person may have dementia can include:

  • Finding it hard to remember things
  • Finding it hard to follow instructions, stories and/or conversations
  • Having difficulty in performing everyday tasks
  • Losing enthusiasm in regular activities
  • Failing to keep track of bills, money, and other activities like appointments

You are not alone

There are around 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and numbers are predicted to increase to over 1 million by 2025. There is a wealth of support available for people with dementia to ensure they receive the appropriate care and support.

When it comes to diagnosis, the process can take many weeks – your doctors will carefully consider your medical history and run a series of tests before reaching a conclusion. During this time, you may feel stressful and anxious, which is why it is important to get support from charities such as Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia UK. They have a wide range of information available for you, along with support groups and lunch clubs to help you.

Planning for the future

1. Paperwork

Sort out and organise all important papers – documents related to mortgage, insurance policies, pensions, investments – ensuring that they are easily accessible. Tell someone you trust where they are kept.

2. Banking

Several banks provide dementia-friendly services like using your voice as your password, reducing the amount you can withdraw from a cash machine, or sending a copy of your statements to a nominated family member or trusted friend, to name but a few. Some options may require legal authorisation whereby you need to appoint a Lasting Power of Attorney first – this is something that our solicitors can help.

3. Driving

Both the NHS and the DVLA have made it clear that a diagnosis of dementia does not immediately stop you from driving – in fact, one in every three people with dementia still drives. Having said that, you do need to inform the DVLA and your car insurance company immediately.
The DVLA will decide if you can drive after a consultation with your GP or the hospital.

4. Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA)

A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows you (the donor) to nominate a trusted family member or friend (the attorney) to make legal decisions on your behalf when you lose the mental capacity to do so.

There are two types of LPA:
Property and financial affairs
This gives your attorney the power to make decisions about money and property for you, such as:

  • Managing a bank account
  • Collecting benefits
  • Paying bills
  • Selling your home

Once the property and financial affairs LPA is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, your attorney can start to make decisions for you (even when you are still able to deal with these things yourself). Alternatively, you can put your attorney on standby and allow them to take over when you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself.

Health and welfare LPA
A health and welfare LPA gives your attorney the power to make decisions on your behalf about your health and welfare, such as:

  • Your daily routine (washing, dressing, eating)
  • Medical care
  • Moving into a care home
  • Receiving life-sustaining treatment (if you have made an advance decision, this will be overruled)

Once the health and welfare LPA is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, your attorney can only start to make decisions when you are no longer able to do so.
At Foys, our solicitors from the protection of the elderly team have been championing the welfare of people with dementia in South Yorkshire, North Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and assisting many individuals in submitting their LPAs forms. We can definitely help you to complete the LPA forms and make sure they are error-free. In the event that the forms must be signed by someone to state that you have the mental capacity, we can arrange that too. Registering LPAs usually takes several weeks so it is essential to act now.

5. Making a Will

A Will is one of the most important documents you create to protect your family and allow your legacy to be cherished by people you love the most.

When your doctor confirms that you have dementia, it does not mean that you cannot create a Will – but you do need to create one when you still have ‘testamentary capacity’, meaning you are able to understand the Will you are making and the effect it will have. To avoid future complications such as disputes among disgruntled relatives, our Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors at Foys will follow procedures and get the appropriate medical evidence to show that you have mental capacity to make decisions.

Time is of the essence if you have been diagnosed with dementia. Our solicitors can help you create a well-considered and error-free Will that will prevent any misunderstandings or disputes later.

6. Living Will or Advance Decision

A Living Will or Advance Decision allows you to state your wishes to refuse a specific type of treatment in the future when you are unable to communicate your needs.

You may want to refuse a treatment in some circumstances but not others. You may also want to refuse a treatment that could potentially keep you alive, known as life-sustaining treatment and they include:

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) – may be used if your heart stops
  • Ventilation – may be used if you can’t breathe by yourself
  • Antibiotics – these help your body fight infection

You can call one of our solicitors to help you create a Living Will or Advance Decision. Once it is signed by you and a witness, make sure your doctor has a copy to include in your medical notes.

7. Claim benefits

You may be eligible for Personal Independence Payment (if you are between 16 and 64) or Attendance Allowance (if you are 65 or over) while your family member looking after you for more than 35 hours a week may be eligible for Carer’s Allowance.

Other benefits you may receive include income support, housing benefit, council tax relief and pension credit.

8. Care needs assessment

One of the first help you can get is from your local council through the care needs assessment scheme. The process includes a discussion with those involved in your care such as family or friends as well as a questionnaire (not always) to detail your living and care situation. With this information, social services will assign a social worker to plan the care you require. In some cases, you may be allocated a personal budget to help with covering some of the costs of your care service.

9. Stay active and stay healthy

It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle after your diagnosis by staying active, having a balanced diet with the essential nutrients and avoiding consumption of unhealthy options. Regular check-ups with your doctor, dentist and optician should also be arranged. A live-in or home carer can also help.

Foys Solicitors can help you make arrangements after your diagnosis of dementia

At Foys, our elderly care solicitors can provide the necessary legal advice and support following a diagnosis of dementia. We offer a free initial consultation where we discuss your needs and explore the next steps with you.

Call any of our local Foys offices today:

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This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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