LONDON, U.K.—Margaret Dawson couldn’t recognise her son. At 84 years old, she had just gone into a care home.
“I always thought that dementia is slow, it creeps forward and you know it’s coming, so you can do something about it. But in my mum’s case, it wasn’t. It all happened so quickly,” recalled Margaret’s son, Garry Dawson.
“She thought that I was her dad,” said Garry. “We had to stop taking our daughter to see her because it was becoming upsetting. My daughter couldn’t understand why grandma didn’t know her; it’s difficult to explain that to an 8-year-old.”
Seeing a close family member suffer from dementia can be one of the most painful chapters in your life. As Garry’s mother could no longer make her own decisions, he planned to manage his mother’s finances.
But he had never set up a Lasting Power of Attorney, which meant he had to go through the Court of Protection – a specialist court that can make decisions on health, welfare and finances for those who have lost capacity to do so.
Like many, dealing with the Court of Protection caused a tremendous amount of stress and emotion for Garry. “The emotional aspects were horrendous,” he said.
From being told his mother’s family home had to be sold to cover the care home costs, paying ongoing fees and constantly having to prove everything to the court, the process only added to the difficulties he was already facing.
Applying to the Court of Protection, which has the same powers as the High Court, can often be a less flexible and a more costly option.
Managing your loved one’s finances
Around 1 in 3 people over 65 will develop dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. Many people assume that next-of-kin can make financial and welfare decisions on behalf of a family member that has lost capacity. This is a myth.
Thousands of people in the UK manage the finances for the vulnerable when they can no longer make their own decisions.
It’s not comfortable to think that one day you may not be capable of making your own decisions in the future.
“It might be upsetting to approach an immediate member of your family to say: ‘Look you need to sign the appropriate documentation so we can look after everything for you.’ It’s not a nice thing to ask anybody to do,” said Garry. He wishes his mum had had one in place in time.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that appoints a person (known as the “attorney”) to make decisions on behalf of someone else (known as the “donor”). It has to be set up while the “donor” has the capacity to make their own decisions.
Types of Lasting Power of Attorney
Lasting Powers of Attorney don’t need to be used straight away; they may not even be used at all. But having your wishes clearly stated can ease the emotional and financial burden of close family and friends, if anything were to happen.
In England and Wales, there are two types of Lasting Powers of Attorney, one for property and financial affairs and the other for health and welfare. The main difference is that the health and welfare document is only valid if the person loses capacity to make their own decisions.
Both types require a certificate provider to confirm that the person is not being forced to sign away their assets, as well as a witness.
The Enduring Power of Attorney was replaced by the property and financial affairs Lasting Power of Attorney in October 2007, but Enduring Powers of Attorney created before this date are still valid.