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 a living will
A living will (also known as an Advance Decision or as an Advance Directive in Northern Ireland) is a legally binding document. It will ensure your wishes are taken into account by medical professionals in the future if you can no longer make your own decisions (officially known as ‘mental capacity’).
It can cover specific treatments that you do or do not want in the future, such as life support. A particular course of medication, unless it is to decline it, can’t be specified. A living will is only valid if it is written correctly and witnessed. The Alzheimer’s Society website has more details about living wills.
This sets out wishes in more general terms so that relatives know what you want, 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 you if you aren't able to explain it yourself at that point. In an advance care plan, you can state, for example: ‘I’m not willing to go into hospital except in the most extreme circumstances’ and ‘Please phone Mrs X to ask her to feed my cat if I have to go into hospital.’
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.
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