A diagnosis of dementia is often seen as catastrophic, both for the individual concerned and their family and friends. While medical issues may initially take precedence, questions about personal affairs often arise soon afterwards.
Estate planning and financial affairs can quickly assume great importance. The right advice, delivered in a timely fashion by specialists with an understanding of the particular issues faced by those with a dementia diagnosis, can go a long way to alleviating some of these concerns.
Just as there is no one single definition of dementia, there are no absolutes in how it affects any one individual. For some, the progression is rapid. Others experience a very gradual deterioration and are perhaps able to continue living independently for many years. For this second group, their mental capacity to take their own decisions may remain unaffected for a considerable time.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition related to dementia. It is characterised by problems with memory and thought processing that are more severe than would be expected from another person of a similar age. Some people with MCI go on to develop dementia but not all do.
If you have received a diagnosis of either dementia or MCI, you may wish to address personal matters, such as making a will or putting in place an enduring Power of Attorney, as soon as possible. Perhaps you, or your family and friends, worry about whether you have the necessary mental capacity to follow legal advice and take decisions.
It is possible that your worries are unfounded, and a chat with your GP may confirm this. You may also wish to access further support through Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Mental Capacity Explained
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 protects people who may no longer be able to take certain independent decisions. It starts from the premise that everyone is assumed to have mental capacity. You will not be treated as unable to make your own decisions unless all practical steps to help you do so have been exhausted.
Taking an unwise decision is not, in itself, sufficient for you to be treated as lacking mental capacity. If it is necessary for acts to be done, or decisions made, on your behalf, they must be done or made in your best interests. Additionally, there must not be any less restrictive way of achieving the same result.
What We Can Do To Help
Four of our Wills & Probate Solicitors, Christopher Furbey, Philip Walsh, Noreen Doherty and Shane Flannery, have recently undertaken specific training to become “Dementia Friends”. We would be only too pleased to answer any questions you may have and, if you wish, help you put in place any necessary legal measures. This might include making a will, living will or lifetime bequest, putting in place an enduring Power of Attorney, preserving your assets in the event of you needing nursing or residential care.