Power of Attorney & protecting the rights of people with dementia
Dementia Action Week runs 17th – 23rd May 2021 and is a national event that sees the public coming together to take action to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.
When a person receives a dementia diagnosis, this doesn’t automatically mean they cannot make important decisions. However, as their symptoms worsen, they may no longer be able to make decisions about their finances, health or care. We refer to this as losing mental capacity. If you are concerned about losing mental capacity, you may wish to take steps now to protect yourself.
In this article, we look at how someone you trust can make decisions on your behalf or how you can help a loved one with dementia protect their rights for a time when they lose mental capacity.
Mental capacity – explained
In short, mental capacity means that the person can understand, remember, and use information to make important decisions about their life. Mental capacity can be difficult to ascertain; some people are perfectly able to make daily decisions such as what to eat and what to wear but struggle with financial or health decisions.
Only a healthcare professional can determine whether a person has lost mental capacity, and it will not be based on making a strange decision or a single mistake.
The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) protects and empowers people who may have lost mental capacity to make decisions about their care and treatment. The Act also states that where a decision must be made on behalf of a person who has lost capacity, this decision must be made in their best interests. There is a checklist to help decision makers decide.
Dementia and making a Power of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so for yourself. This person is called your attorney.
To set up an LPA, you must have the mental capacity to do so, so it is important to do this as soon as possible if you have received a dementia diagnosis.
Do you need a Power of Attorney if you are married?
It is essential to understand that no one has the power to make decisions on your behalf if you have not set up an LPA. Your spouse or civil partner cannot automatically deal with bank accounts or pensions or even make decisions about your care where you lose capacity. As a result, even if you are married or in a civil partnership, setting up an LPA is essential.