Coping with a dementia diagnosis

This will be a worrying and stressful time for yourself and family, even if you have had concerns about your memory for a while. After receiving your diagnosis is a crucial time, when you will need support and reassurance from both your family and professionals. Dementia is a progressive condition, which means that the symptoms gradually get worse. The progression follows a very individual process and each person will experience dementia in a different way. Some people will experience a lot of symptoms, others not as many. It is important at this time to take stock and think about what is important to you and what you value. You need to think ahead and make plans now, to ensure that what you would wish to happen later on will be carried out.

Something to plan and prepare

There are somethings you should consider soon after receiving a diagnosis. As the dementia progresses, there may come a time when you are unable to advocate for yourself. You need to discuss things with people close to you. It is probably a good idea to write down all your concerns and future wishes. It will be helpful to those closest to you if you have put in place a plan that incorporates your culture, values and ideas.

Advance decisions

An advance decision (sometimes known as an advance decision to refuse treatment, an ADRT, or a living will) is a decision you can make now to refuse a specific type of treatment at some time in the future.” You can find out more about advance decisions from the NHS Choices website’s section on End of Life Care.

Wills

If you want to make decisions about who you would like to benefit, you can include this in a will. You can also include your wishes regarding your funeral. A good source of information about writing your will can be found on the government website www.gov.uk/make-will. There is also good advice about advance funeral wishes on the Bereavement Advice Centre’s website www.bereavementadvice.org.

Lasting Power of Attorney

Although you may have no difficulty now taking decisions about your affairs - such as house insurance, savings accounts, and medical treatment - it’s worth thinking about who you would like to take those decisions in the future when things might become harder for you. Do not assume that your next of kin will have the authority to deal with these matters. You can appoint someone through a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to take decisions on your behalf. There are two different types of LPA: a property and affairs LPA, who looks after property and financial matters; a personal welfare LPA, who looks after day-to-day matters such as health, care and your home. You can get LPA appointment forms from the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney. The forms have to be registered, with a fee, at the OPG before they come into effect. You don’t need a solicitor to draw them up but you might want to get further advice before signing one. LPAs replace Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs). However, any EPA signed before October 2007 can still be used. One point to bear in mind if you have an EPA is that it only covers finance and property matters. If you’d like someone to look after your day-to-day matters you can appoint, in addition, a personal welfare LPA. A guide that you may find useful can be found on the website of a legal firm: Wright Hassall. It can be found by going to their website (www.wrighthassall.co.uk) and searching for ‘Complete legal guide to dealing with dementia’.