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Why talking about dementia and planning for later years matters

By Catrin Lloyd

Published In: Wills and Probate

Whatever your age and circumstances, talking about dementia and planning for the later years of your life  shouldn’t be a taboo subject. By talking openly, sharing your sentimental and practical wishes, and planning, you can help reduce stress for your loved ones in the future.

elderly couple walking in park

In this article we highlight the importance of having a will and lasting power of attorney (LPA). We also look at why it’s key in alleviating stress for families who’ve lost loved ones or families of those who’ve lost capacity.

The mental health charity Mind states that bereavement and periods of uncertainty are two of the biggest causes of stress. With careful planning both can be reduced for those you leave behind.

Losing capacity

Losing capacity is when you experience a decline in your ability to make decisions or communicate wishes due to impairment. In the case of  dementia ,   you may find over time you increasingly struggle with tasks such as remembering appointments, managing finances, or even recognising loved ones. Dementia is progressive, so symptoms may initially be mild, but they’ll likely deteriorate and your capacity continues to reduce. This loss of capacity can be a challenging and emotional experience for both you and your loved ones. It’s important to have conversations about advance care planning and legal documents, such as a lasting power of attorney. This ensures that your wishes are respected, and you receive the appropriate care and support if your capacity declines.

Undoubtedly there’s a higher risk of elderly people losing their mental or physical capacity. However, anyone over the age of 18, should consider who’ll act on their behalf if they’re no longer able to make decisions for themselves.

Why have an LPA?

As well as writing a will, having an LPA in place can provide clarity and peace of mind for your loved ones. It ensures that your precise wishes are clear, should you lose capacity. We often suggest that clients consider organising an LPA when they come to us for will services. It’s a legally binding document that allows you to appoint someone, or more than one person, to make decisions for you if you’re unable to do so yourself. By appointing an LPA(s), you can make sure your exacting wishes are followed and that your loved ones aren’t left in the dark about your preferences.

LPAs can only be set up while you still have mental capacity, so it’s important to discuss this with your relatives and take action. This is increasingly important as the LPA doesn’t take effect until it’s registered with the court, in some cases this can take up to 20 weeks. By having these conversations and taking action early on, you ensure your loved ones are prepared for any eventualities.

Reducing stress

Having a will and LPA is one of the most important steps you can take to plan for potential loss of capacity and end of life. They encourage you to think about your wishes and talk to loved ones about those wishes after you pass away. This helps avoid any confusion or disputes among family members, which can be a significant source of stress during an already difficult time.

Your will can also include provisions for guardianship of children, as well as instructions for the care of any dependents you may have. This provides peace of mind for your loved ones, knowing they can carry out your practical and sentimental wishes in the event of your death.

A will can also streamline the probate process, making it much smoother and quicker. As your wishes are already clearly outlined.

Recognising your sentimental wishes

Beyond assets and instructions of a practical nature, uniquely, our will advisors also recognise the personality and sentiments of the writer. They can guide you as to the inclusion of personal instructions for your funeral, wishes, pass on family traditions, share your greatest achievements in life, include memories and how you would like to be remembered by loved ones. It also lets you add personal messages for the people you’re leaving behind.    

Giving you peace of mind

Having a will and/or LPA in place can provide peace of mind and can help to reduce stress during what’s already a challenging time. By taking the time to talk about your wishes both practical and sentimental you can be sure they’re recorded and followed and that your loved ones are provided for.  

Easing the burden

We never know what’s around the corner so there’s no time like the present when it comes to planning for the future. We recommend you start a conversation about dementia and end-of-life planning, today. Whether that’s with your loved ones or with a legal professional who can help ease the burden.

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Catrin qualified as a Solicitor in 2005. She is a Director at Switalskis and is Head of our Wills and Probate department.

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