Dementia affects people differently. One person may begin to lose the ability to handle money or make competent business decisions at an early stage, while another person may keep these skills much longer.
However, sooner or later their abilities will decline and the person with dementia will be unable to make their own decisions about their financial and legal matters.
Planning ahead can make it easier for families and carers to manage the affairs of a person with dementia. It may also mean that the person with dementia can participate in the planning and make sure that their wishes are carried out in the way that they would like.
Wherever possible, get advice while the person with dementia can still participate in the discussion and is legally competent to sign any documents.
Finance & Money Matters
If a bank account is in joint names, the partner of the person with dementia can continue to operate it without any change in arrangements. However problems can occur if the person with dementia uses the account inappropriately or has accounts in their name only. It may it may be helpful to consult your bank manager, solicitor or financial advisor to discuss financial matters in more detail.
- A will gives instructions as to how the estate of a deceased person should be distributed.
- A will is only legal if the person understands its implications, so it is essential that if the person with dementia wishes to make, or update their will, they do so while they still have the capacity to sign.
- It is a good idea to have an up-to-date will, know where it is kept and know who the executor is.
Enduring Power of Attorney
An enduring power of attorney is a legal arrangement that enables a nominated person to look after the financial affairs of another person should they become unable to do so. Many people have enduring powers of attorney regardless of any illness or diagnosis.
One of the benefits of having an enduring power of attorney is that it allows the person with dementia to choose someone to act on their behalf in legal and financial matters when they are no longer able to do so themselves.
It is advisable to discuss enduring power of attorney with your solicitor as soon as possible after diagnosis to ensure that the person with dementia has the opportunity to consider their options while they still have the capacity to do so.
Decisions about Medical Treatment
If a person with dementia loses the legal capacity to make decisions about their medical treatment, someone else needs to make those decisions for them. An enduring power of attorney covering health matters allows the person with dementia to appoint a person to be a substitute decision-maker for medical decisions.
In most instances a trusted relative or friend can be appointed to make these decisions. It is recommended to discuss the options open to you with your solicitor.
(Ref: Alzheimers Australia, ABOUT DEMENTIA Help Sheet 7: EARLY PLANNING)