Sarah White, a solicitor in the Clacton – based Wills and Estates team talks about her role as a Dementia Friend.

In my role as a Wills and Estates Solicitor I have met with many clients who have sadly been diagnosed with Dementia.  In May 2015 I decided to become a Dementia Friend with the Alzheimer’s Society and this week is Dementia Awareness Week.  The intention of the Dementia Friend scheme is for people to learn more about Dementia and the ways in which they can help others and thereby creating a more Dementia friendly community.  Dementia Friends do not have to commit any particular time to the scheme, but the actions of a Dementia Friend could for example include visiting a person they know with Dementia or telling people in the community about the scheme.

Dementia is of course sadly one of many illnesses that can cause a person’s mental capacity to deteriorate.  Often I find that people do not consider what may happen in the event that they are diagnosed with an illness which affects a person’s mental capacity or take the view that it is unlikely to happen to them.  I am regularly instructed by clients who have recently been diagnosed with an illness which has started to affect their capacity and by family members who think that they can obtain a Power of Attorney for someone that has already lost capacity when in fact they can’t.

A Power of Attorney is a legally binding document which you can use to give someone of your choice the power to make decisions on your behalf when you can no longer act.  Since 2007 this document has been known as a Lasting Power of Attorney and the person appointed to make those decisions is known as your Attorney.

There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney.  The first is the Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs and allows your attorney to manage your money on your behalf such as paying bills, doing your banking and selling your property.  This can be used even when the Donor (the person who has made the document) hasn’t lost capacity for example if they simply require a little extra help.

The second type is known as the Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare.  This allows your Attorneys to discuss your health with the doctors and can be used for day to day healthcare decisions such as your diet and dress etc.  It could also include decisions about where you are to live such as a care home.  Unlike the Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs this can only be used by your Attorneys when you have lost mental capacity.

If a person loses capacity and does not have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place then it may become necessary for someone to apply to the Court of Protection to become your Deputy.  Not only is this a more expensive process but it could also mean that someone you would not chose to act on your behalf could be appointed as your Deputy.  In some cases it may not even be someone you know such as a Local Authority or Court appointed Deputy.

Anyone can be a Dementia Friend and as part of my role as a Dementia Friend in Awareness Week I ask you to consider becoming a Dementia Friend to learn more about Dementia and the ways in which you can help people in your community who have been diagnosed along with their families.  You can sign up to the scheme via their website www.dementiafriends.org.uk

For more information on Lasting Powers of Attorney or to discuss your individual circumstances with Sarah call 01255 221919 or email her on sarah.white@tsplegal.com