Caring for a loved one with dementia

Dementia careDementia is an umbrella term for a number of symptoms associated with reduced or declining communication, problem-solving, thinking, comprehension and memory function.

Dementia is caused by various degenerative diseases that affect a person’s brain with the most common cause being Alzheimer’s disease. Other diseases include vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and mixed dementia (when a person has a combination of dementia types and symptoms).

If you are to assume the role of primary caregiver to a family member or loved one diagnosed with dementia, there are a number of essential details that need to be understood and steps to be taken. At Romain Coleman, we understand how challenging the circumstances are after the diagnosis and your need to ensure your loved one receives the best care possible. We’ve written a comprehensive guide detailing the actions you should take to secure the best future care for your loved one.

In this post, we explore:

  • Managing the loved one’s legal affairs
  • Planning their everyday care
  • Planning for the future

Firstly, it is important to note that any legal affairs regarding the patient can only be managed on their behalf. This is only if the individual still has the mental capacity (depending on their condition) to understand the decisions that are being taken and the implications that will occur as a result.

Lasting Power of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint one or more trusted people (attorneys) to make decisions on your behalf when you are unable to as a result of an accident, or illness for instance. You can only do this when you have the mental capacity to understand your decision.

Therefore, we suggest that after your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, you act fast and support them in appointing their attorney(s). This may relieve their stress, as someone they trust will have access to managing their care and treatment according to their wishes.

If you would like in-depth information concerning Lasting Power of Attorneys and how to go about attaining it, read our detailed post ‘What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?’.

Living Will for someone with dementia

Another legal document to consider for a loved one diagnosed with dementia is a Living Will. Like the Lasting Power of Attorney, you must also have the mental capacity to understand the decisions you are making and the effects of this legal document.

A Living Will is a legal document that declares your choices regarding which medical treatments you wish, or do not wish, to receive if you are unable to communicate your wishes in the future. This may occur in the event of a serious accident or due to mental illnesses, dementia being one such.

To find out more about Living Wills and our will writing service, check out ‘Should I make a Living Will?’.

Remember, neither a Lasting Power of Attorney or a Living Will can be made once ‘the donor’ loses the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves, so it is vital that you tackle these issues early on in the diagnosis.

If you are in a position where your loved one has already lost their mental capacity, you will need to apply to the Court of Protection to become their Deputy. While this is a more time-consuming option, it may be your only choice in the circumstances. For more information or assistance on the matter, speak to our specialist dementia care solicitors on 0208 520 4555.

Everyday care for someone with dementia

Everyday care for someone with dementia can be a challenge as dementia can cause emotional and behavioural changes in the patient. Some of these challenges include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Maintaining a healthy and regular diet: Those who have dementia often experience problems with eating and drinking, likely due to the memory problems (remembering to eat), problem-solving issues (struggling to follow recipes) and communication problems (telling you when they’re hungry).
  • Shadowing: This is the act of the patient following you, their caregiver, around everywhere. The person may also mimic the caregiver and become anxious when they aren’t around.
  • Personality changes: Dementia can have significant effects on your loved one’s emotional state and behaviour. Your loved one may become more withdrawn, easily angered and may even say impolite things without realising its severity – all of which will seem out-of-character.

If you are struggling with daily care, ask for help from dementia charities and support groups such as Alzheimer’s Society or Dementia UK. These organisations offer in-depth detail regarding dementia and offer support groups for patients and carers alike.

Planning for the future

Planning for the future is also something you should consider. Try to consider what will happen if your loved one’s condition worsens and they become too ill to remain at home. Consider making enquiries to the many specialist care homes that specifically care for people with dementia.

Remember, care homes aren’t the only option and, in some cases, it isn’t the best option either. If your loved one doesn’t want to leave their home, consider hiring specialist dementia live-in carers to support you and your loved one around the house.

Our specialist dementia care solicitors understand how challenging and overwhelming it can be to plan for the future while coping with the present, which is why they’re here to help.

Legal support and care from Romain Coleman

The most important thing to remember is that you need help and support too as a carer, so take time out for yourself also and get the support you deserve.

From appointing an LPA to planning future care, if you would like help with any of the legal aspects of caring for a loved one with dementia, please do contact us. You can call us on 0208 520 4555 or contact us via our Contact Form and we will be happy to help.

This article was first written in 2016 and was updated on 04/09/2019.

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This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.