Dementia guide

Managing legal affairs for someone with dementia

Symptoms of dementia will become worse over time. That's why it's important to get an early diagnosis and start making plans for the future as soon as possible.

These plans should include ensuring your wishes are upheld should you not be able to make decisions for yourself – also called lacking or impaired "capacity".

Consent to treatment if your capacity is impaired by dementia

The Mental Capacity Act is designed to protect people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Under the Act, a person is presumed to have capacity "unless all practical steps to help him (or her) to make a decision have been taken without success". 

Find out more about the Mental Capacity Act.

Giving your consent means you must give express permission before any medical treatment can be carried out on you.

Consent is needed for all treatments, whether it's a simple blood test or an organ donation.

The only time when treatment can go ahead without your permission is if you cannot make a decision on your own and the doctors responsible for your care believe that treatment is in your best interests. 

Find out more about consent issues.

Power of attorney for people with dementia

There may be a time in the future when your symptoms mean you are no longer able to give consent. You may wish to give a relative you trust the power to make decisions about you if you are unable to. This is known as power of attorney.

There are three different types of power of attorney:

  • Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for matters relating to property and financial affairs
  • LPA for matters relating to the person's welfare (including their health)
  • Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA). EPAs made before October 1 2007 are still valid and can only be registered if the person is losing, or has lost, their mental capacity, and must be registered by the attorney

The LPA has to be made in a fixed legal way and is not legally recognised until it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.

The person making a power of attorney for property and affairs can register the LPA while they are able to make decisions for themselves. A personal welfare LPA may only be registered when a person has lost capacity. Separate powers of attorney can be made for either LPA, or both LPAs can be appointed to the same attorney.

Read more about dementia and your money.

Advance care planning in dementia

After you're first diagnosed with dementia, you might want to consider drawing up an advance decision. An advance care plan makes your treatment preferences known now in case you are unable to do this in the future.

Subjects covered by an advance decision can include:

  • what treatment you would consider having, and in what circumstances
  • what types of treatment you would never wish to have, no matter the circumstances
  • what type of end of life care you would wish to have – for example, whether you would want to be resuscitated by artificial means, such as having a breathing tube inserted into your neck if you have lung failure
  • whether you would be willing to donate organs after your death

You cannot request anything illegal in your advance decision, such as assisted suicide. Your care team will be able to provide you with more information and advice about advance decisions.

Wills

A will lets you decide what happens to your assets (your money, property and possessions) after your death. It's the best way of ensuring your wishes are carried out the way you want when you die.

If you die without making a will, the government will decide what happens to your assets. You can write your will yourself, but it's a good idea to get legal advice. It will need to be formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid.

GOV.UK recommends that when writing your will, it should include:

  • who you want to benefit from your will
  • who should look after any children aged under 18
  • who is going to sort out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death (your executor)
  • what happens if the people you want to benefit die before you

You should keep your will safe and tell your executor where it is. 

For more information, read GOV.UK advice on writing your will or go to Citizens Advice. You may also want to check out the Money Advice Service information on making and changing a will and planning your estate.

Page last reviewed: 22/06/2015

Next review due: 22/06/2017

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