Our Edinburgh team will be present at the Alzheimer Scotland's annual conference held June 03 at the prestigious Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
The number of people with dementia is steadily increasing according to research by the Alzheimer's Society. In 2013, 815,827 people were diagnosed with various forms of dementia in the UK, the vast majority of sufferers being 65 years or over.
By 2015, there were 856,700 people with dementia in the UK (70,162 in Scotland). If current trends continue the number of people with dementia in the UK is forecast to increase to just under 1.5 million by 2025, an increase of 40% over the next 12 years.
Although there is no cure for dementia at present, research into causes and treatments is ongoing. There are drugs which may help some people with the symptoms of the most common forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease.
Dementia is progressive, so later on in the illness individuals may no longer be able to make decisions that will affect their lives and those of their immediate family who suffer almost as much stress and anxiety as the victim in trying to cope with a loved one with the disease.
Dementia affects the memory and the ability to work things out. As the illness progresses, money and legal matters can become harder to manage, so it is important to put your financial and legal affairs in order as early as possible. For many younger people (i.e. anyone under 60 years old) the prospect of suffering from dementia may seem extremely remote, but planning for what may happen is certainly prudent. Making some decisions now can also help avoid trouble and expense for family and friends later.
Having a diagnosis of dementia does not mean you are unable to make some or all major decisions for yourself. There are laws which aim to protect the rights of vulnerable adults, including people with dementia, such as the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000, the Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and the Adult Support & Protection (Scotland) Act 2007.
The interpretation and use of these laws are regulated by the Sheriff Courts, the Office of the Public Guardian, the Mental Welfare Commission and local authorities, however the Adults with Incapacity Act does not take a 'one size fits all' approach to incapacity. It recognises that a person might have a problem handling money but may still be able to decide what they want to buy.
A care home or hospital can manage a person's finances up to a certain amount if they are not able to do so and there is nobody else to do it. However, while you have the opportunity, it is a good idea to see a solicitor who can help with Powers of Attorney and making a Will.
A Power of Attorney (POA) is a document in which you appoint someone you trust to look after your affairs but allows you some say in what happens if one day you can't make decisions yourself. The Adults with Incapacity Act makes it possible to have two Powers of Attorney. You can have one for your financial affairs (a Continuing Power of Attorney) and one for your personal welfare (a Welfare Power of Attorney).
You can choose the same person or people to do both if you wish, but the POA can't come into force unless registered with the Office of the Public Guardian and an attorney charged with looking after your health and welfare can only do so if and when you are shown to lack mental capacity.
The other important step (that sadly still too few Scots take) is to make a Will. If you die without making a Will (known as dying intestate) there are certain rules called the rights of succession which will dictate how your money, property or possessions will be allocated, which may not be the way that you would have preferred.
By the time you factor in insurance payments, property values and savings most of us are probably worth more than we think, but even if you don't consider yourself to be wealthy, a Will is still useful to avoid family arguments and leave personal belongings to friends or family members who will appreciate them.
Setting up a Trust is also often presented as a useful measure for someone who can't manage their finances themselves due to dementia and has been touted as a way to protect the family home from any 'means test' assessment should full time residential care be required. However, the efficacy of this tactic in these circumstances remains unclear and is a topic we will return to in greater detail.