When a person receives a dementia diagnosis, this of course doesn’t automatically mean that they cannot make important decisions from that point onwards. As their symptoms worsen, though, they may become increasingly unable to make decisions about their finances, health or care. We refer to this as ‘losing mental capacity’.
Dementia can be a heart-breaking disease, both for the sufferer and their families. If you are concerned about losing mental capacity, one way in which you can help your family and friends is to consider taking steps now to protect yourself legally.
In this article, we look at how someone you trust can make decisions on your behalf or how you can help a loved one with dementia protect their rights for a time when they lose mental capacity.
Mental capacity - explained
In short, ‘mental capacity’ means that the person can understand, remember, and use information to make important decisions about their life. Mental capacity can be difficult to ascertain; some people are perfectly able to make daily decisions such as what to eat and what to wear, but struggle with more complex decisions, such as investment or banking.
Mental capacity is ‘decision-specific’ in this way, but is also ‘time- specific’ in that it can vary day by day, hour by hour.
The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) protects and empowers people who may have lost mental capacity to make decisions about their care and treatment. The Act also states that where a decision must be made on behalf of a person who has lost capacity, this decision must be made in their best interests. There is a checklist to help decision-makers decide.
Dementia and making a Power of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so for yourself. This person is called your attorney and you can appoint more than one, or even consider setting out replacements.
To set up a Power of Attorney, you must have the mental capacity to do so, so it is important to do this as soon as possible if you have received a dementia diagnosis.
Do you need a Power of Attorney if you are married?
Legally, no one has the power to make decisions on your behalf if you have not set up an LPA. Your spouse or civil partner cannot automatically deal with bank accounts or pensions or even make decisions about your care where you lose capacity. As a result, even if you are married or in a civil partnership, setting up an LPA is essential.
Please contact our specialist solicitors today if you would like to discuss putting Lasting Powers of Attorney in place.
How can Tozers help?
For any further help or advice on anything covered in this insight, please contact our dedicated Later Life Planning team who will be happy to help.