WE’RE living longer but it’s not a positive experience for everyone, writes Elspeth Paget
Angela Rippon, pictured, recently revealed that she has edited her will over the fears she might suffer from Dementia later in life. The 71-year-old former newsreader, who is also an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, said she made the decision after realising that “anything can just come out of the blue”.
We are living longer, which is great news. Unfortunately, it’s not a positive experience for everyone. Reports show that the onset of dementia is more feared by people over the age of 55 than cancer. With one in three people in the UK over the age of 65 diagnosed with a form of dementia, it is a disturbing reality that many are struggling with the condition and it’s become the new generational issue for families.
So many are now witnessing the personality changes in loved ones. They are left trying to come to terms with the cognitive decline that comes with the various stages of dementia.
The crisis often arises when the person is no longer able to care for themselves. There might have been a steady decline, and suddenly there is a marked change. A healthy person might be struck down by a stroke or virus that they don’t fully recover from leaving them with dementia type symptoms.
The younger generation are left trying to help, whilst the older adult refuses to admit anything is wrong. They might be faced with making difficult medical or care decisions without ever having had a discussion with the adult about what they would have wanted in the circumstances.
Whilst unpleasant to think about, it is wise to consider what your wishes would be if the unexpected happened to you. An elderly but healthy friend recently took a bad turn having contracted a virus. Physically she is recovering from it well, but her mind is not what it used to be. She won’t be able to return home, and will have to move into a care home. So who makes the decision as to which care home is right for her? Her husband is the obvious choice, but he doesn’t automatically have authority to do so. What about her son, whom she is estranged from? Luckily, she had put a Power of Attorney in place which allowed her husband to take control of her finances and make the necessary arrangements to move her from the hospital to the care home of their choice.
Without the Power of Attorney the bank would have refused to allow the husband access to her accounts, and the care home certainly wouldn’t have allowed him to move her in. These institutions quite rightly insist on proof that her husband had her authority to make these decisions.
Putting a Power of Attorney in place whilst you are fit and well means you can ensure that if something happens to you the people you trust are able to help you. The deed can be tailored to your circumstances and you can have different people appointed to look after your finances and your welfare.
A Power of Attorney is like an insurance policy - we hope it’s never needed, but it saves a huge amount of expense and stress if it’s in place when required. If you lose capacity and don’t have one in place your family would have to apply for guardianship from the court. This is a lengthy and expensive process and may lead to somebody being appointed whom you wouldn’t necessarily have appointed yourself.
We can expect to live a longer life, but none of us expect to lose capacity. Prepare for the unexpected: safeguard yourself and your family now by putting a Power of Attorney in place.
• Elspeth Paget is head of Private Client, Gillespie Macandrew