It is estimated that 850,000 in the UK are now living with dementia, making it the leading cause of death in England and Wales.
In this article, our estate planning team discuss dementia and some of the legal steps you can take to prepare for the future and make sure you are properly looked after should the time come when you can no longer look after yourself.
Dementia is caused by damage to the brain caused by diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. It can also occur as a result of other health problems, such as when an individual suffers a series of strokes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for approximately two-thirds of cases in older people. Dementia begins with relatively mild symptoms that worsen over time. Dementia affects different people in different ways, especially in the early stages of the illness.
The three most common forms of dementia are:
Six in every ten people with dementia have Alzheimer disease. It is most common in people over the age of 65, but five per cent of cases affect those under 65, known as early-onset Alzheimer’s. Sufferers of Alzheimer’s experience changes to the brain that are far more pronounced than changes associated with normal ageing. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, an increasing number of brain cells become damaged.
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, occurring when blood vessels in the brain are damaged, which results in reduced blood flow to the brain cells. Damage to blood vessels can result in memory problems that may not be serious enough to be considered dementia. This is known as vascular cognitive impairment.
DLB is the third most common form of dementia, affecting 10-15% of people living with dementia. Estimates suggest that around 100,000 people in the UK have DLB, which is caused by small clumps of proteins building up in nerve cells in the brain. These protein clumps damage the way that nerve cells function and communicate.
Being diagnosed with dementia does not necessarily mean you will lose all mental capacity and unable to make your own decisions at this time. However, sadly, many people with dementia will reach a stage where they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves – which is often referred to as lacking mental capacity. When someone lacks mental capacity, they will need someone else, such as a family member, carer or a person they trust, to make these decisions on their behalf.
A lasting power of attorney (LPA) gives another adult the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of another person. This person, known as an ‘attorney’ will then be able to manage the other person’s finances, health and wellbeing.
There are two types of LPA:
Having plans in place for this following a dementia diagnosis can be hugely beneficial, and an LPA is one of the most popular options to ensure you can be properly cared for. If you don’t make an LPA and later become unable to make your own decisions, nobody will legally be able to make decisions on your behalf. This can make things extremely difficult and expensive for your family as they won’t be able to make any financial decisions or decisions related to your care.
If you are considering making a lasting power of attorney, our solicitors can help. For clear, pragmatic, sympathetic advice, speak to a member of our Estate Planning Team today by calling 0808 168 5813 or completing our online contact form.