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Things To Think About If You Have Received A Dementia Diagnosis

16 May 2023
Elderly man receiving a diagnosis

The term dementia is used to describe a collection of symptoms which occur when the brain is affected by specific diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease or Vascular Dementia. The symptoms usually include gradual loss of the functions controlled by the brain such as memory, communication, cognition and reasoning. Dementia is a progressive disease which means that the symptoms will get worse over time. How fast dementia progresses depends on each individual and no two people will have the same experience.

When a person receives a diagnosis of dementia, it can be quite overwhelming with many people feeling scared and afraid for theirs and their family’s future. There are, however, some practical steps that can be taken to ensure that yours and your family’s lives are made as easy as possible in the difficult times ahead.

Getting affairs in order

A diagnosis of dementia does not prevent a person from making decisions about their affairs. Provided they have the requisite mental capacity to understand the decisions they are making and their consequences, a person is still free to make decisions for themselves.

Will

From a legal perspective, it is advisable to review your will if you have one or put one in place if you have yet to make one. This will ensure that your estate passes to the people you wish to benefit.

If you die without leaving a will, your estate will be distributed in accordance with the Intestacy Rules which may not accurately reflect your wishes. For example, if you have an unmarried partner they will not benefit in anyway regardless of how long you have been together or if you have children together.

It is also important to talk to family members about wills. For example, your spouse may wish to amend their will in light of the diagnosis to prevent all of their estate being spent on care fees should they die first and their estate passes to you.

Lasting Powers of Attorney (“LPAs”)

LPAs are particularly important if you have received a dementia diagnosis as they allow you to nominate one or more people to make decisions about your property and financial affairs and your health and personal welfare when you are no longer able to make these decisions for yourself. Failure to put LPAs in place can result in your relatives having to make a time consuming and costly application to the Court to be able to assist you if needed.

LPAs are like an insurance policy, it might never be needed but, if it is, you are very glad you have one!

Advanced Decision

Often referred to as a Living Will, an Advanced Decision allows a person to set out their wishes in relation to future medical treatment. If you have strong views on treatments you would not wish to receive then this can be set out in this document. It is advisable to talk to your family about your wishes to ensure that they are fully prepared for what may arise in the future.

Difficult discussions

As dementia progresses, there are some difficult decisions that need to be made, often by family members. Many family members struggle with such decisions as they want to act in the way they believe you would have wanted had you been able to make the decision yourself. This can be made more difficult, however, where a person’s wishes are not known and can lead to added stress for family members at an already difficult time.

Some issues that should be discussed include:

Care – what are your wishes? Would you prefer to be cared for at home or would you prefer to move to a care home? Do you have a preference as to which care home you would like to move into? Visiting care homes can be a good idea to get a feel for them and help you to decide what facilities are important to you. Also think about which of your belongings you would like to take with you to make your room as comfortable and homely as possible.

Life story / reminiscence – due to the way dementia progresses, information about a person’s background can assist carers to provide person centred care. It can often help to explain some behaviours which in turn can help carers to manage them as well as assisting carers to understand a person’s needs when conventional communication becomes more difficult. Making use of tools such as Preparing4Care (www.preparing4care.co.uk) can provide vital information to carers when you are unable to communicate your wishes yourself. For example, what foods do you like / dislike, what are your hobbies etc.

End of life wishes – one of the most difficult decision a person can ever make is whether to consent to or decline treatment on behalf of another person, especially if that decision may result in the shortening of a person’s life. Some people feel that life should be preserved at all costs whilst other believe in the quality of life over a longer life. Making your loved ones aware of your feelings on this can assist if, and when, they are faced with making such a decision. If you have any wishes in relation to organ donation, you should also make these known.

Funeral wishes – organising a funeral is the final act a person can do for their loved one which makes it especially important that the funeral reflects what the deceased would have wished. Some people have very strong views on their funeral such as which hymns are to be sung and may go as far as to pre-plan their funeral with a funeral director, whilst others are happy to leave all decisions to loved ones. How much input you wish to have is up to you but you should ensure that any wishes you have are passed to relatives so that they can plan your funeral accordingly.

We understand that receiving a diagnosis of dementia can be a difficult and traumatic time and we are here to help.

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Culver Law, London
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London
WC2A 1AP
0203 633 6226
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