But if you don’t appoint someone to have Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) while you are still capable, this could mean having a complete stranger make decisions regarding your future, explains Michael Neal-Brook, associate in Lodders Care & Capacity team.
To mark World Alzheimer’s Month 2023, we wanted to take the opportunity to debunk a common misconception that dementia is an illness which only affects the elderly, and explain why it is therefore crucial to make sure you and your loved ones arrange an LPA while you still have the capacity to do so.
When a person develops dementia before the age of 65, it is known as ‘young-onset dementia’ and can begin as early as a person’s 30s. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are around 900,000 people in the UK living with dementia in the UK, over 70,800 of which are living with young-onset dementia.
Like all people with dementia, younger people may experience a wide range of symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. However, because young-onset dementia is relatively rare, early symptoms can be harder to recognise or not as obvious. They might be put down to other factors such as stress, difficulties with relationships or work, or menopause, and so reaching a diagnosis can take longer.
Indeed, statistics from Dementia UK suggests that the average time to diagnosis is 4.4 years in younger people compared to 2.2 years for people aged over 65. In some cases, this delay may mean that by the time a diagnosis has been given, the person living with dementia may have lost the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.
People often wrongly assume their next of kin can make medical and care decisions in the event that they are no longer able to, but this is not the case if you have not arranged an LPA. The only exception to this is with children under the age of 18, when a parent or legal guardian may make decisions for or on behalf of a child.
An LPA is a legal document that allows a person to appoint someone they know and trust to make health and financial decisions, should they lose the capacity to do so themselves. The person appointed as an attorney will usually be a family member or a close friend. However, you can choose anyone over 18, providing they are willing to undertake the role. In some cases, you may choose to appoint a professional, such as a solicitor and Lodders can act in this role if you wish.
You must be 18 or over and, crucially, you must have mental capacity when you set up an LPA. It therefore makes good sense for both you and your loved ones to arrange it when you’re still young, have all your mental faculties and are capable of making decisions and signing the document, just in case the unthinkable happens.
People often assume lack of capacity relates only to dementia and old age, but people can lose capacity at any time due to accidents or illness.
If you lose mental capacity and haven’t created an LPA:
Thinking about the possibility that illness might affect us or a loved one is difficult, but talking about it and planning for the future is, in fact, a positive step that will help you prepare for whatever lies ahead, and help to ease unnecessary worry, burden, and stress for family and friends.
It is reassuring to know that someone you trust can make the right decisions for you, if you no longer can.
A Lasting Power of Attorney drafted by one of Lodders’ Care & Capacity specialists will ensure someone with your best interests at heart can make these decisions. To discuss arranging an LPA sooner rather than later for you and your loved ones, please speak to a member of our team today.Contact us
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