Be prepared for progressive changes
If you’re diagnosed with dementia in the early stages, you should be able to carry on living independently for some time, if you wish to do so. But dementia is a progressive condition that will gradually develop 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’s needed and help you to make choices that you feel comfortable with about your future.
Setting up a Power of Attorney
It’s a good idea to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney in England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, as soon as you can after your diagnosis. This allows you to nominate a trusted relative or friend to deal with your financial or health affairs should you lose the ability to make decisions in the future. The Power of Attorney doesn’t need to be used immediately, but getting it set up will mean it's there when needed.
Writing an advance decision (living will)
An advance decision to refuse treatment (often known as a ‘living will’) is a legally binding document that tells people about specific medical treatments that you do or do not want to receive in the future. This can include your preferences about life-sustaining treatments, such as using a life support machine. It will be taken into account if you lose the capacity to make decisions about your own care in the future.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland this is known as an advance directive, and different rules apply. Which? Wills service?
An advance statement sets out wishes in more general terms so that relatives know how you would like to be cared for. It can include anything that matters to you about your care, such as where you’d like to be cared for, any dietary or religious preferences, what you enjoy doing or who you’d prefer to visit you. Unlike an advance decision, an advance statement is not legally binding.
Advance care plan
An advance care plan is a document that healthcare staff may draw up, with your participation, to keep a record of your care and treatment preferences. It is not a legally binding document, but a practical one that healthcare staff can use to ensure everyone involved in your care knows about your wishes if you aren't able to explain them yourself. This would be attached to your medical notes.
If you have already created an advance statement or an advance decision, make sure these are mentioned in the advance care plan.
Organise financial affairs
Organising financial affairs is a really sensible idea. Organise papers, make a list of all your account details, and set up direct debits to pay bills so that it is all in order.
If you’re supporting someone close to you who has dementia, you may find it useful to read our guidance on organising financial affairs.
Social media and other digital accounts
It can be a good idea to think through how your social media accounts will be handled as your condition develops and you will want to make plans for how to share passwords, if necessary, as well as making plans for what to post in future.
Living with dementia is life changing, so we help you understand what to expect about treatment and medications.
If your loved one has dementia, you may need to take a different approach to discussing care options.
A dementia diagnosis shouldn’t stop anyone from continuing to live an independent life for as long as possible.