World Alzheimer’s Day – Raising Awareness

World Alzheimer's Day is observed on September 21, every year to raise awareness, educate about Alzheimer's and Dementia. This day is celebrated to understand the importance of talking about dementia and demystify it. Research shows there are more than 850,000 people in the UK who have dementia. One in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia, and the condition affects 1 in 6 people over 80.

A dementia diagnosis doesn't necessarily mean you're unable to make important decisions at that point in time. But as symptoms of dementia get worse over time, you may no longer be able to make decisions about things like your finances, health or welfare. This is sometimes referred to as lacking mental capacity. You may want to make plans now for a person you trust to make decisions on your behalf. This means your wishes for your future care can be respected. It'll also help give your family peace of mind.

You can only make a Will and Lasting Power of Attorney if you have sufficient mental capacity. Mental capacity means being able to understand, remember and use information so you can make decisions about your life and how you wish to divide your assets upon death. You may find you're perfectly able to make decisions over what to buy from the supermarket or what to wear, but have trouble with understanding more complex financial issues. Another person can't decide you lack mental capacity because they think you have made a bad or strange decision. Only a healthcare or another qualified professional can decide if mental capacity is lacking.

Making a Will It's a good idea to make a will if you haven't done so already. This ensures that when you die, your money, property and possessions go to the people you choose. If you die without making a will, the law decides who'll get what. These laws are out of date and as such do not make provision for co-habitees or stepchildren.

A person with dementia can still make or change a will, provided you can show that you understand its effect. Unless your will is very simple, it's advisable to consult a specialist Willwriter who is qualified and experienced in writing wills. Your will must be signed and formally witnessed. It should also be kept in a safe place where others can find it, either at home or with a solicitor.

Making a Lasting Power of Attorney A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows you to choose a person (or people) you trust to act on your behalf if you're no longer able to make your own decisions. This person is referred to as your attorney and must be over 18 years old. You may think that if you're married or in a civil partnership, your spouse would automatically be able to deal with your bank accounts and pensions, or make decisions about your care if you're no longer able to. But this isn't true. Without an LPA, your spouse wouldn't be able to act on your behalf. An LPA can only be used after it's been registered at the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG).

There are 2 types of LPA covering:

  • property and financial affairs

  • health and welfare

You can choose to do both LPAs at the same time, or just one. You can choose the same person (or people) to be your attorney for both. Or you can have different attorneys.

Advance Decisions These are part of advance care planning after a dementia diagnosis. They let your family and healthcare professionals know your wishes for your future health and social care if you become unable to make decisions (lack mental capacity).

Advance statement An advance statement is a written statement that sets down your preferences, wishes, beliefs and values regarding your future care. An advance statement isn't legally binding, but your attorney (if you have one) and healthcare team will take it into account.

Advance decision An advance decision (sometimes known as an advance decision to refuse treatment, or ADRT) is a written statement you can make now to refuse a specific type of treatment in the future. It's a good idea to discuss the treatments you're deciding to refuse with your doctor orhealthcare team so you fully understand the consequences.

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. If you decide to refuse life-sustaining treatments in the future, your advance decision needs to be: - written down - signed by you - signed by a witness Make sure your doctor has a copy of the advance decision to include in your medical notes.

Funeral and burial plans For some, making funeral and burial plans ahead of time is an empowering process. Advanced planning on your part may reduce the stress and uncertainty of these arrangements for your family during a difficult time.

Ideally, it's best to express your end-of-life care wishes now while you are able to make decisions for yourself and so consider planning your estate now by writing your Will and Lasting Power of Attorney.

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