4 Making plans for the future

If your relative is diagnosed with dementia in the early stages, they should be able to carry on living independently for some time. But dementia is a progressive condition that will gradually get worse over time and this differs with each person, so it makes sense to start making plans for the future. This will ensure that everything is in place for when it is needed and helps to make choices about the future.

Power of attorney

While the person who has been diagnosed with dementia still has mental capacity (can make their own decisions), they should set up a Lasting Power of Attorney. This allows them to nominate a trusted relative or friend to deal with their financial or health affairs should they lose the ability to make decisions in the future. It is important to do this as soon as possible, because you or your relative must consent while they still the ability to understand the implications of what they are agreeing to. The power of attorney does not need to be used immediately, but it will be there when needed.

Advance Decision

This is a legally binding document, also known as a living will, and will ensure your relative’s wishes are taken into account by medical professionals in the future should they lose the ability to make their own decisions (officially known as ‘mental capacity’). It can cover specific treatments that your relative does or does not want in the future, such as life support. A particular course of medication, unless it is to decline it, can’t be specified. An Advance Decision is only valid if it is written correctly and witnessed. For details and advice see this Alzheimer’s Society fact sheet

Get a will from Which?

It's a good idea for your relative to make a will now, if he or she hasn't made one already. Likewise, perhaps now is a good time to be thinking of making a will for yourself if you haven’t done so already. Make sure your treasured possessions go to the ones you love – see how we can help at Which? Wills.

In Northern Ireland, this is known as an Advance Directive.

Advance Statement

This sets out wishes in more general terms so that relatives know what the person with dementia wants, and can also be known as a living will. It might include such things as care options, housing preferences and food preferences. Unlike an Advance Decision, an Advance Statement is not legally binding.

Advance care plan

An advance care plan is not a legally binding document, but a practical one that healthcare staff can use to help treat someone who can’t make their wishes known. In their advance care plan, your relative can state, for example: "I am not willing to go into hospital except in the most extreme circumstances" and "Please phone mrs x to ask her to feed the cat if I have to go into hospital".

Organise financial affairs

Organising financial affairs to make them easier to deal with is really useful. Organise papers, make a list of all your relative’s account details, and set up direct debits to pay bills so that there is less for your relative to worry about. For more advice, see Managing your relative’s financial affairs.

Social media and other digital accounts

It can be a good idea to think through how your relative’s social media accounts will be handled as their condition worsens. Dead Social can help your relative with how to share their passwords if necessary, as well as make plans for what should happen to their blog or website in the future, you can find their contact details in our Useful organisations and websites page.

More information

  • Care services directory: find local support groups and domiciliary care agencies for people who live with dementia.
  • Housing options: information about specialist sheltered housing schemes and care homes for people with dementia.
  • Financing care: advice about funding various care options.

Page last reviewed: 31 January 2015
Next review due: 31 January 2016