When someone is diagnosed with dementia, planning for the future – especially their financial future – may be the furthest thing from their mind.
In fact, many Australians choose not to plan ahead at all. Studies show that at least 45 per cent of Australians do not have a valid Will. Less than 20 per cent of Australians have made any plans for care at the end of their lives. And only half of Australians have made any preparation for an event that may make them incapable of making decisions.
Why don’t people plan for their future?
There are many reasons people hold back from planning for the future after they have been diagnosed with dementia:
- They may have already lost testamentary capacity
- The diagnosis of dementia can cause great emotional stress and confusion
- There may be cultural and linguistic barriers
- Talking about death is taboo in some cultures
- Some people feel ashamed of their diagnosis
- Sometimes it can be difficult to find the appropriate information
- They do not understood that dementia is a terminal illness
- GPs do not provide advice on the importance of planning ahead
Can people with dementia still legally make decisions about their future?
In many instances, people with dementia can still make decisions about their future, so long as they are assessed by a qualified medical practitioner as having the capacity to do so.
Dementia is a degenerative disease, so the sooner you begin planning for your future, the better.
Each decision is different in complexity, and consequently the ability to perform different tasks will be lost at different points along the trajectory of the illness.
The sooner substitute or supported decision makers are appointed, the more control you will have over the decisions being made.
Protect your legacy: write a will
A will is a legal document that ensures your assets will be distributed as you wish after you die. It is often your lasting legacy to your loved ones.
Once your will is written, it’s important that you know where it’s kept. You can register the location of your will with State Trustees.
State Trustees offers a full will-writing service, delivered by trained professionals. Where there is a dementia diagnosis, it is important that a high level of care is taken in preparing a will, as any question as to testamentary capacity can cause a will to be declared invalid after death.
Protect yourself from elder abuse: assign a power of attorney
Sadly, elder abuse is a growing problem in our society, and often comes from those who are closest to us.
By appointing a trusted power of attorney you can protect yourself from this problem.
An enduring power of attorney allows you to appoint someone (the ‘attorney’) to look after your financial and/or personal affairs if you become unable to.
An enduring power of attorney for financial matters enables you to choose an individual, or an organisation like State Trustees, to look after your financial or property affairs, including any legal matter that relates to your financial or property affairs.
Depending on what powers you decide to give your attorney for financial matter, they can:
- assist with your day-to-day finances
- manage your bills
- manage your property
- arrange for your tax returns to be completed.
An enduring power of attorney for personal matters enables you to choose a trusted friend or family member to make certain personal decisions.
Depending on what powers you decide to give your attorney for personal matters, they can decide:
- where you live
- who you live with
- what education or training you receive
- whether you go on a holiday and where you go
State Trustees understands power of attorney law and the needs of people living with dementia. They can offer an expert and impartial power of attorney service.
Making sure the right safeguards are in place
After an initial diagnosis of dementia, making sense of all the information you have been given can be overwhelming.
While we don’t advise that you rush out and do everything at once, it is a good idea to put safeguards in place early on.
You will have been involved in the decision-making process, and it’s more likely that your wishes have been thought through and will be followed in the way you intended.
For more information contact State Trustees.