If your loved one received a dementia diagnosis, you will have a myriad of thoughts running through your head. These will range from emotional feelings such as shock, anger and worry for the future to more practical considerations such as sorting out your loved one’s finances and making arrangements for the future.
Whilst both are equally important, this Blog focuses on some of the more practical elements.
Does your loved one have somebody they can talk to?
Who they talk to is not important! What is important is that they have a person that they can be open and honest with about how they feel and what is going through their mind. It can be a close family member or friend or a complete stranger, whichever is best for your loved one. But, they need someone to confide in that won’t judge them or make it about themselves.
If there is nobody close who fits the bill, there are plenty of support groups around that would be delighted to welcome them in.
Who needs to be informed?
If your loved one is still driving, they must tell the DVLA and their car insurer; it does not automatically mean they have to stop driving but they must tell them. If your loved one is still working, their employer may be a great source of support and may be in a position to support them with reasonable changes to their working environment or role which may mean they can continue to work for longer.
What is your loved one entitled to?
Being diagnosed with dementia may mean your loved one will now be able to access some much needed support. This may mean they will be entitled to free equipment which allows them to adapt their home to make life easier or safer. They may get some free care depending on their financial situation or Social Services may make adaptions to their house to allow them to remain at home and being independent for longer.
In many cases an early diagnosis will mean your loved one may not yet be entitled to any of this support, but, it will allow them to better understand what they may be entitled to later allowing them to plan better for the future and stay in control. Your loved one’s GP or local social services should be able to signpost them in the right direction.
Has your loved one got an up-to-date will?
We should all have a will, irrespective of any diagnosis of dementia or other condition. Having said that, a diagnosis is an opportunity to get one if your loved one doesn’t have one or check that their existing one still reflects their current wishes.
It is estimated that 30% of people over the age of 50 have a will that no longer reflects their current life and wishes, with ex-partners still the main beneficiary and current partners or children not even considered.
Remind your loved one to check their will now and if it does not say what they want it to say they will need to change it immediately whilst they still have capacity. You or your loved one can find a solicitor on Google or to speak to one that focuses on elderly law visit this website Solicitors for the Elderly.
Get your loved one’s affairs in order
None of us have a crystal ball and none of us know what is round the corner! But people often live really well for many years after a dementia diagnosis. So the effort to organise all of your loved one’s personal, legal and financial affairs is well worth it.
Your loved one may have a system that has served them well all their life but it may not be as effective when their dementia journey progresses or when someone unfamiliar with the way they do things tries to help.
Keep it simple, buy a filing cabinet or set of folders, keep everything in the same place and label it all really well. This will allow your loved one to control their own affairs for longer, allow a trusted advocate to help them with something specific without having access to everything and also if someone has to take over all of their affairs they are able to do so as easily as possible.
Appoint a power of attorney?
Even if your loved one doesn’t have a formal diagnosis of dementia, they should have a plan to cover “what if”. But, if your loved one is living with dementia, it is likely that at some stage they will lose the capacity to make all decisions on their own behalf. At this point they will want a nominated trusted person to step in and make decisions for them in line with what they would have done for themselves if they had retained capacity.
If your loved one does this when they are able to make their own decisions it is a reasonably quick and cheap process starting with a quick call and subsequent visit to a solicitors. Again if your loved one doesn’t have a family solicitor already they should find one on Google or by visiting Solicitors for the Elderly.
If your relative doesn’t do it in time and their family have to do it on their behalf when they can no longer consent, it becomes a very long, drawn out and costly legal process.
Make an advanced decision or a living will?
This is not the same as last will and testament. This is a legally binding arrangement that dictates how future medical procedures and treatments should be managed in the future. An advanced decision (often referred to as a living will), allows your loved one to refuse procedures or treatments further down the line.
Consider advanced statement?
This is similar to a Living Will but deals with how your loved one wishes to manage other elements of their health in the future. An advanced statement is a way to legally express their wishes about the way they should be cared for in the future. This can include spiritual or religious elements of their life or whether they would prefer to move into a care home or stay in your own home.
Is your loved one getting all the benefits they are entitled to?
Even people who work in care can be confused by entitlement to benefits, so for those uninitiated it can be a real challenge to know what you are entitled to. Find out more about the benefits and entitlements for older people
Is your loved one looking after their health?
Every study carried out discusses the benefits of living well, taking exercise, eating the right foods and staying hydrated as well as remaining emotionally active. There are a number of ways of slowing the progression of dementia which your loved one’s GP will be able to advise them about.
Just get it done
A diagnosis of dementia can be a huge shock and an emotional thunderbolt and your loved one will obviously need some time to come to terms with it. The above list is by no means exhaustive but it does provide a good starting point. Our advice is just to get on with these jobs so that you and your loved one can have peace of mind that you have done all you can to prepare for the journey ahead.
Why not also make a list of a bunch of stuff your loved one still wants to do and start ticking them off. A scary diagnosis could provide that springboard to start really enjoying this chapter of their life whilst they are still independent enough to do so.