Did you know that there are over 90,000 people in Scotland living with dementia?

As our population continues to age, it is increasingly important that we continue to raise awareness of the condition.

This week at Brodies we’re talking a lot about how the rise of dementia should affect our personal planning for the future – and, in particular, the importance of powers of attorney.

The Scottish Government’s National Dementia Strategy is now approaching the end of its second, three-year cycle – the proposals for the third strategy (which will run from 2016-2019) were published in March, with the strategy itself to follow later this year. Strikingly, the proposal document calls for the establishment and promotion of a “human rights-based approach” to dementia diagnosis rates, in order to combat the disease more effectively.

I found it a particularly compelling idea that faster, more reliable diagnosis should be considered a human right. Thinking about good dementia care in this context gave me a new perspective on personal planning; it made me think about the work that each of us can do now to ensure that we are adequately protected in the future – and the responsibility that we owe to ourselves to do so.

We’re often reminded these days of the importance of taking time out – of being kind to ourselves. Arguably, one of the greatest kindnesses you could do for yourself is to ensure that, if a life-changing, degenerative condition such as dementia were to strike one day, your financial arrangements and general wellbeing could be managed simply and securely by your loved ones without serious cost or delay.

In Scotland, the only way to achieve this with certainty is through a power of attorney, registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.

Financial powers of attorney are valid and can be used as soon as they are signed, provided that the granter gives his or her authority. Welfare powers of attorney – which enable trusted friends or family members to make decisions on behalf of the granter that affect virtually any aspect of his or her life – can only be used once the granter no longer has legal capacity, and only if they are registered.

If a person loses capacity and there is no power of attorney in place, the court must appoint a legal guardian to make decisions on their behalf. This is costly, can take time, and there is no guarantee that the appointed guardian will be someone that the individual would have chosen.

With a power of attorney you can appoint who you want, give them the powers that you want, and rest assured that your wishes will be known and followed even if you can no longer communicate them.