It is normal for us all to worry about our parents and loved ones, especially as they become older and potentially more vulnerable.
If you begin to notice changes in the behaviour of a loved one, particularly memory, or you notice them becoming more frequently confused, it could be a sign that something isn’t quite right. These symptoms are associated with dementia but also are associated to other conditions such as a vitamin deficiency, infection, or stress, amongst other things. In order to be sure what the cause is, it is always best to seek the opinion of a medical professional.
Raising concerns to a loved one can be difficult, as it is such a sensitive issue. It may be a good idea to start a conversation by asking how the person is and if anything is worrying them. Or, if you feel comfortable doing so, suggest they go to their GP to talk about recent changes in their memory and/or behaviour. It is a scary time but the sooner a diagnosis is made – or reassurance is given that the symptoms are not dementia – the sooner help and support can be given. If for example the memory loss is not caused by dementia but by stress or a physical illness, that can also be addressed
Dementia is something we as a society are all increasingly aware of. People are more open about their own experiences and willing to talk. You might find that you have friends or colleagues who have experienced the same thing and could offer some help and support.
On a practical level if someone does have problems with their memory and this is diagnosed as a degenerative condition such as Alzheimer’s i.e. it will not get better but gradually worse, it is important to speak to your family member or friend about putting in place a lasting power of attorney and also a will.
A lasting power of attorney is important to ensure a person has already made the decision of who will be their voice if there is ever a time they lose the ability to manage their own finances and/or make decisions about their own health and welfare such as where they live.
By making a lasting power of attorney, someone can choose the person or people they would like to have the legal power to manage their property and financial affairs if in the future they lose the ability to do that themselves. There is also a lasting power of attorney for health and welfare which, if someone loses mental capacity, their attorney(s) can speak on their behalf about health and welfare issues such as medical treatment and where they live.
A lasting power of attorney is only legally valid during a person’s lifetime. On death, the will is the document which directs who will receive the estate of the deceased. If no will is in place, the rules of intestacy apply, which can sometimes result in the estate passing to the wrong people.
If these documents are not prepared and someone does lose the ability to make their own decisions i.e., they lose mental capacity, it can result in a lengthy and expensive application to the Court of Protection.
As a result of the decisions an attorney can make and to ensure the correct beneficiaries receive the estate, a lasting power of attorney and a will are very important documents. A solicitor will be able to give your tailored advice specific to your circumstance.
Senior Associate private client solicitor at Brumell and Sample Solicitors
Jennifer Turnbull is senior Associate private client solicitor at Brumell and Sample solicitors in Morpeth, Northumberland. Since qualifying as a solicitor in 2008 Jennifer has worked as a private client solicitor primarily in the North East of England and specialises in advising clients on wills, lasting powers of attorney, probate and the administration of estates, as well as care home fee planning and matters involving the Court of Protection.
As a full accredited member of Solicitors for the Elderly, Jennifer prides herself on her ability to discuss complex legal matters in a way that is easy to understand and digest. Jennifer also ensures time is spent within the local community to provide advice and support whenever needed.