Being diagnosed with dementia can be a lonely and worrying time, not to mention a huge shock for family members too. It’s an increasingly widespread illness, with the Alzheimer’s Society projecting that the number of people living in the UK with dementia will rise from its current level of 850,000 people, to 1.6 million by 2040.
Understanding memory loss and the impact it can have on you, your friends and family and your day to day living is extremely important.
Here we outline how you can protect yourself financially in the event of being diagnosed with dementia, along with some basic steps that are said to lower the risk of you getting dementia at a later stage.
Power of attorney
This is crucial. By having a power of attorney allows someone else to make decisions for you, or act on your behalf if you’re no longer able to. For the purpose of what we’re discussing now, a lasting power of attorney (LPA) is the most relevant – as opposed to an ‘ordinary’ or what used to be called an ‘enduring’ power of attorney.
An LPA covers decisions about your financial affairs, or your health and care. It comes into effect if you lose mental capacity, or if you no longer want to make decisions for yourself. You would need to set one up before you get ill.
To arrange an LPA you should contact the Office of the Public Guardian, there’s an initial fee of £82 for each LPA. Alternatively, you can set one up via your solicitor.
This section applies to anyone, whether you have dementia or not. However, in the context of this article it’s imperative that you not only have a will in place, but that it’s valid too. Similar to an LPA, a will must be set up before you get ill, and must be kept up to date via regular reviews.
Ensuring that your estate is distributed exactly how you want will be important to you, and it won’t be made easier in the unfortunate event that you are diagnosed with dementia later on and don’t have a valid will in place.
Age UK have some useful guides on this if you’re interested in finding out more.
Don’t forget about your benefits
There are a range of benefits available to those who suffer from dementia, and for carers too. Some of them are means tested and may also depend on your National Insurance contributions, but they’re certainly worth looking into.
Benefits for people with dementia include Attendance Allowance (for over 65s) and Personal Independence Payment (for under 65s).
For those caring for someone suffering from dementia, the benefits potentially available to them are Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Credit. (You can find out more about the range of benefits at dementiauk.org)
Reducing the risk of dementia
The Alzheimer’s Society have listed five simple things that you can do to help reduce your risk of dementia.
- Get moving – regular physical exercise is key, every day if possible. Whether that be a brisk walk or an activity such as gardening.
- Eat well – a balanced diet is important not just to reduce the risk of dementia, but other health issues such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
- Quit smoking and less alcohol – two obvious ones but also vital factors contributing to dementia. It’s recommended that you drink no more than 14 units per week (equivalent to 6 pints of beer or 10 small glasses of wine).
- Keep your mind active – it’s suggested that regularly challenging yourself mentally seems to build up the brain’s ability to cope with disease. A crossword, puzzle or board game can do the trick.
- Look after your health – did you know that you’re eligible for a free health check if you’re aged between 40-74?
Whilst dementia can be lonely, you’re certainly not alone. There is a vast amount of free material online that can advise and support you further. The Alzheimer’s Society in particular have some great resources – in fact we have a few ‘Memory Calendars’ for 2020 in the office, if you would like us to send you one just let us know.
If there’s anything else on this that you would like us to have a look at for you or someone else you know, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Dennehy Weller & Co are members of the Bromley Dementia Action Alliance and we meet regularly to improve our awareness and understanding so that we are better able to work with and support our clients and their families.
Additionally, you might find the online chat forum on the Alzheimer’s Society useful. This isn’t just for those with dementia, but also carers, family members and those simply looking for advice. Just follow this link to explore the Dementia Talking Point.
Our priority is to ensure that you are fully prepared both financially and mentally – it helps to talk about these things.