In August of this year, a Facebook video showing a man with dementia singing with his son in the car went viral, touching the hearts of nearly 5 million people and raising over £100,000 for Alzheimer’s Society in the process. The success of video comes at an appropriate time; September is World Alzheimer’s Month – an international campaign to raise awareness about mental capacity and challenge the stigma attached to the disease.
The video serves to raise some bigger questions about what can be done to protect independence and autonomy when Alzheimer's strikes and the repercussions of the disease on immediate family. Simon McDermott, son of ‘The Song-A-Minute Man’ Teddy McDermott, who posted the videos on Facebook said: “When we have got him singing again he is back in the room. It is these moments that we treasure.” This question is only set to become more prevalent, with nearly one in five people set to see their 100th birthday and the frequency of cases of Alzheimer’s expected to increase accordingly.
Advance Care Planning
Thankfully, there are various options available to protect the well-being of those suffering from Alzheimer’s and their loved ones. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 sets out what should happen when someone is able to make decisions for themselves and when they are not. It also provides ways to plan for the future, known as ‘advance care planning.’ These options allow a person to lay out their wishes before they become unable to effectively communicate them. Legally binding planning options include an Advance Decision, a Lasting Power of Attorney and becoming a Deputy by the Court of Protection.
Advance Decision or Living Will
An Advance Decision, often known as a Living Will, is a legally binding statement that communicates an individual’s wishes regarding their medical treatment in cases where they are unable to express their desires. It lets your family, carers and health professionals know whether you would like to refuse specific treatments in the future – this will include life-sustaining treatment. Many take comfort in knowing their wishes are safely documented, should it come to a time that they need to be referred to.
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
When diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, many people choose to give someone they trust ‘Power of Attorney’, giving them the power to make decisions in your best interests on your behalf if you lost the capacity to do so. An LPA for Health and Welfare allows the attorney to make decisions regarding healthcare and welfare, including where the person lives and whether to refuse or consent to medical treatment. A Power of Attorney can be particularly useful in situations where there has been a divide in the family and one person would be preferred over another to be consulted on personal matters.
In cases where the person with dementia no longer has the capacity to assign a power of attorney, a close friend of family member can be appointed as a Deputy by the Court of Protection. The decisions that they make can be checked by the Court to ensure that they are in the person’s best interests. As a Deputy for the Court of Protection, our senior partner, Melinda Giles, is expertly placed to help with issues like this.
Whilst you may find that none of these options are necessary, they serve as a way to safeguard your future and your right to make your own choices if the time should come when you lack the mental capacity to do so. The comfort of knowing that your wishes are professionally documented can provide great peace of mind to those with Alzheimer’s.
If you find yourself in need of guidance on the legal side of mental capacity, you can arrange a free 30-minute consultation at our offices in Leigh-on-Sea and Rochford on 01702 477106. Our qualified team offers helpful support in all of the above options.
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