21st Mar 2017

The legal steps following a Dementia diagnosis

The diagnosis of a relative or friend with dementia can come as a real blow, and is likely to mark the start of a stressful and trying period for all concerned. As well as the emotional implications, it’s important to remember that there are practical considerations to be taken into account.

The Dementia Diagnosis

While it is a fact that the matters that need to be dealt with are likely to be sensitive and difficult to raise, this disease will progress and there are decisions that the patient and their carers must make at an early stage. With Berwins you can rest assured that our specialist team of solicitors is experienced at dealing with people who are losing capacity and all their encounters with your loved one will be sensitive, competent and helpful.

Legal Steps to Consider

After a diagnosis, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start when considering the steps to take. Here are five key points relating to legal matters that you will need to consider. 

  1. You must first make sure someone has legal authority to act for the person who has been diagnosed in connection with their financial affairs. This can be granted with the creation of a Financial Decisions Lasting Power of Attorney. This can be completed by you online or through a solicitor, who will be able to offer guidance on its terms and help with the registration process. 
  2. It is also worth considering a Health and Care Decisions Lasting Power of Attorney. Should the time come when a person is no longer be able to make decisions about matters such as health treatment and where they live, this LPA will give nominated representatives the authority to make the necessary decisions. It can be used alongside an Advance Decision, commonly known as a Living Will, in which the individual can set out in advance the steps they wish to be taken around treatment.
  3. You should also check whether the person has an up to date Will. If they meet the legal test for capacity and either don’t have a Will or it is not up to date, one should be made or amended as a priority to ensure wishes and preferences are in place.
  4. It is also important to find out if the person is a beneficiary of someone else’s Will, for instance a spouse or relation. If so, that person should also consider amending their Will and looking at inheritance issues in light of the diagnosis. Similarly if the patient is a trustee of a family trust it may be time for them to retire from the post.
  5. Further down the line there will be issues surrounding social and medical care.  This could involve a number of assessments to ensure that the financial help and support to which you are entitled is received. As each individual’s circumstances are unique, so too are the requirements for evaluation on matters such as free long-term NHS care – ‘Continuing Care’ – or means tested financial assessments for long term residential or domiciliary care. An SFE solicitor will be able to offer advice on the steps required as part of these processes.  

While there can be no easy way to address the issues which surround a dementia diagnosis, making sure that the right legal provision is in place at an early stage can have a huge impact on easing some of the strains and pressures which will arise in the future.  

Berwins offers targeted support for older clients and, with five members of the Life team holding accreditation as Solicitors for the Elderly, are able to offer expert legal advice to those dealing with a dementia diagnosis. 

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