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Dementia and the benefits of making a lasting power of attorney

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Dementia is the leading cause of death in England and Wales and it is estimated that some 850,000 people across the UK are now living with dementia. The stats are sobering, but what exactly is dementia and if you’re diagnosed with dementia what legal steps can you take to prepare for the future?

Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. There are numerous different types of dementia, the most common form being Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for approximately two-thirds of cases in older people.

Dementia is progressive, which means it begins with relatively mild symptoms that get worse over a period of time. Different types of dementia affect people in different ways, particularly in the early stages. Three of the most common forms of dementia are outlined below:

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that affects around six in every ten people with the condition. It’s more common in people over the age of 65 but around 5% of cases effect people under 65. This is called early-onset Alzheimer’s.

In Alzheimer’s disease, changes occur in the brain that go much further than changes associated with normal ageing. These changes include the build-up of two proteins, called amyloid and tau. Research suggests that both proteins are involved in driving the disease. As Alzheimer’s progresses, more and more nerve cells in the brain become damaged.

Vascular dementia

After Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia. Vascular dementia occurs when blood vessels in the brain are damaged. This reduces blood flow to brain cells, which affects how they work.

Sometimes this blood vessel damage can cause memory problems that are not severe enough to be considered dementia. This may be called vascular cognitive impairment.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is the third most common type of dementia. For every 100 people with dementia, around 10-15 of them will have DLB. This means roughly 100,000 people in the UK are likely to have this form of dementia.

DLB is caused by small round clumps of protein that build up inside nerve cells in the brain. One of these proteins is called alpha-synuclein and the clumps it forms are called Lewy bodies. The protein clumps damage the way nerve cells work and communicate.

Dementia and the benefits of a lasting power of attorney

Unfortunately, many people diagnosed with dementia will eventually reach a point when they can no longer make decisions for themselves. When a person lacks ‘mental capacity’, it’s common for someone else, for instance a family member or carer, to make decisions on their behalf.

After a diagnosis of dementia, lots of people decide to put plans in place for their future. One of the most popular options is to instruct a lasting power of attorney (LPA). An LPA is a legal tool that gives another adult the legal authority to make certain decisions on behalf of someone else. A person who is given LPA is known as an ‘attorney’ and has the authority to manage a person’s finances, their health and wellbeing. 

Anyone who is over the age of 18 and has the mental capacity to do so can make an LPA.

Once a person has lost mental capacity, they will not be able to appoint an LPA. If the person’s family or friends then want to be able to make certain decisions on their behalf, they will need to apply for deputyship.

If you’re considering making a LPA, here are three reasons why it might be a good move for you and your family and friends.

  1. Reassurance - If you’re unable to make a decision for yourself in the future, the person you choose will be able to make decisions for you, rather than a stranger or someone you do not trust.
  2. Save time and money - Making an LPA now will, in the long run, make things easier for family and friends in the future. It’s likely to be much more expensive, time consuming and difficult to get authority to act on your behalf when you are not able to give it.
  3. Plan ahead - Making an LPA helps start conversations with your family about what you want to happen in the future.

For more information on making a lasting power of attorney and how Stephensons can help call our Wills and probate team on 01616 966 229.