Power of attorney

Prof June Andrews advises that everyone should organise a Power of Attorney just in case, but there is still time after diagnosis, as long as the doctor considers that you are still able to make that decision. They call that being “competent” to make a decision.

If you have dementia you will probably reach a stage when you won’t be able to make decisions for yourself, and there are robust legal processes that you can set up in advance to make sure that this does not lead to things happening to you outside of the range that you’d find acceptable. You can set the controls while you are still able, and choose a person who will make decisions on your behalf if something completely unpredictable happens. Because you know them and trust them and have spent time talking to them, you can relax and know that you’ll be OK because they know and understand what you want and can act as you yourself would have done if something unexpected turns up. Getting wills and powers of attorney sorted is a smart move, for any adult, but when you know you have dementia, you need to move quickly on these, whilst you are still legally competent to give instructions about these important legal documents.

The people who need to know about this include people with dementia, their families, and friends. Some of you may be asked to act as Attorneys or Guardians. The law is meant to be helpful, but to make sure you get the maximum protection, you should take steps like the ones described here to set out your wishes. This can be off-putting and you will come across new technical terms but there is support and guidance available to help with the paperwork.

The legal system has different sets of laws that get more specific the more they relate to you. The human rights and European legislation influences UK legislation and there are UK laws, but in addition each part of the UK may have different specific legislation i.e. England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.

At the early stages of dementia you still have the capacity to do almost everything you ever did. As time goes by your capacity is judged by how well you understand and recall information and can weigh up options. It might even be that you do understand but you are unable to demonstrate that you do, as sometimes happens with a stroke. Talking about all these matters well in advance is really important.

Useful links:

NHS: Managing legal affairs for someone with dementia

Dementia the One Stop Guide – Chapter 13:  Some important legal issues

Dementia UK – What is lasting power of attorney?

Alzheimer’s Society – Lasting power of attorney

Citizen’s Advice – Managing affairs for someone else

A guide to Power of Attorney in Scotland

Setting up Power of Attorney in Scotland

Video from the Law Society of Scotland

Great videos to help you consider a power of attorney

Office of the Public Guardian in Scotland

Reviewed March 1, 2019