I am saddened to read reports that my favourite comedian, Billy Connolly, was struggling to remember his jokes during a recent live gig. Usually reading anything about Billy Connolly reminds me of "big slippers" and "have another custard cream" but on reading this report, I was reminded more of the need for everyone to have a Power of Attorney in place.
In Scotland a Power of Attorney is a legal document giving someone else the authority to take actions or make decisions on your behalf and when thinking about memory loss the important thing to consider is that the document has to be drawn up while you, as the grantor, still have capacity to do so.
Part of the process of granting a Power of Attorney is that the document has to be signed in the presence of a solicitor or GP who is required to sign a Certificate stating that they have spoken to the grantor, have gone through the implications of the document with them and have no doubt that the grantor has sufficient capacity to put the Power of Attorney document in place.
In determining whether someone has capacity we are advised to ascertain whether someone is able to retain and recall information. Often memory loss is an early sign of dementia and anyone suffering from memory loss should consider if now is the time to have the Power of Attorney put in place. If the memory loss becomes more profound there may come a point where a solicitor or GP is unable to certify that you have the capacity to put a Power of Attorney in place. If you become incapacitated and haven't appointed an Attorney an application has to be made to the Sheriff Court to appoint someone to act on your behalf. This person is called a Guardian. This process takes time, entails higher costs and you ultimately rely on the Court to appoint the most appropriate person. Given the relatively small costs involved in putting a Power of Attorney in place this remains the preferred route.
A Power of Attorney allows you to choose someone to make decisions in relation to finances and property matters and you can also appoint someone to make decisions about your health and personal welfare - so if like Billy, you find yourself suffering from memory loss, now would be the time to act.