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September marks the start of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month https://www.worldalzmonth.org/ with World Alzheimer's Day taking place on 21 September 2018.

What is Alzheimer’s?

We have all heard of the disease, but how many of us know what it is and how it affects people?

Alzheimer’s is the most common and most well-known form of Dementia, which accounts for over half of all cases. Symptoms include:

  • loss of memory
  • difficulty in finding the right words or understanding what people are saying
  • difficulty in performing previously routine tasks
  • personality and mood changes

Strangely, for such a common disease that many of us may have experienced first-hand with older friends and family members, scientists do not yet know what causes the disease. It is accepted that health, environmental and lifestyle factors all likely play a part in the development of the disease. However, there is no definitive cause.

Two types of Alzheimer’s- is this only seen in older people?

Late onset Alzheimer’s- This is the most common form of the disease and effects people over the age of 60-65. It is believed that changes that take place in the brain as we age do contribute to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Early onset Alzheimer’s- This is much less common than Late onset Alzheimer’s and accounts for only 10% of cases. It is believed that this is caused by inherited genetics.

Legal implications- Capacity

What are the legal implications of the development of Alzheimer’s?

Following the development of Alzheimer’s, it is common that a person may lose the ability to be able to make certain decisions for themselves. The capability to make a decision may be hindered temporarily or permanently.

Someone lacking capacity - because of an illness or disability such as a mental health problem, dementia or a learning disability - cannot do one or more of the following four things:

  • Understand information given to them in relation to a certain decision
  • Retain the information long enough to be able to make a decision
  • Weigh up the decision and make an informed decision
  • Effectively communicate their decision

What can be done legally? How can you plan ahead?

What can be done legally to set you up for the event that this disease becomes a factor for you or another member of your family?

If a Lasting Power of Attorney is made then somebody is appointed to make decisions on behalf of somebody else. This Lasting Power of Attorney can be used when that person loses capacity.

Two types of attorney:

  • Property and financial affairs- This type of attorney will help make decisions in relation to money, tax and bills, bank and building society accounts, property and investments and pensions and benefits. Decisions can be made whilst the person still has capacity with this type.
  • Health and Welfare- This type of attorney will help make decisions about daily routine, for example washing, dressing and eating, medical care and where the person lives. These decisions can only be made when the person has lost capacity.

A Lasting Power of Attorney for property and financial affairs can therefore be set up in advance of any loss of capacity, meaning that this does not have to be considered and worried about further down the line. It means that there are mechanisms in place to help the person who loses capacity and they can choose a close family member or somebody that they trust to make decisions on their behalf.

What if you don’t plan ahead?

As mentioned above, a Power of Attorney can be entered into once capacity has been lost by the person concerned. Another option is Deputyship.

Anyone can apply to become the deputy of somebody who has lost mental capacity. This is not something that can done before capacity is lost. Deputies are authorised by the Court of Protection to make decisions on behalf of somebody else.

As with Lasting Power of Attorneys, there are two types of Deputyship, being Property and financial affairs and health and welfare. There can be more than one deputy for any one person, but deputies are always monitored by the Office of the Public Guardian and must act in the best interests of the person.

Professional deputies are deputies that are paid to act and can also appointed by the Court of Protection from a panel. This is usually needed when the person has no family or friends who are willing/able to act as deputy. It has to be remembered that this is a big commitment and not everyone is able to take that on.

How can Ramsdens help?

  • Ramsdens can help you to draft a Lasting Power of Attorney, either for somebody who has lost capacity, or if you wish to plan for the future.
  • Ramsdens are also happy to help make applications for Deputyship. We have a number of professional deputies with vast experience in helping those who have lost capacity and do not have anyone close who is able to become their Deputy.

For advice and support on future planning, please email us at willsandprobate@ramsdens.co.uk or call us on 0800 988 3650 and our team will advise you of the next steps with compassion and care.