Dementia and law: Know your rights

Angela Rippon recently revealed she has edited her will amid fears she might suffer from dementia later in life.

Angela Rippon celebrates her mum Ednas 84th birthday back in 2004  Edna sadly died of dementia in 2009
Angela Rippon celebrates her mum Ednas 84th birthday back in 2004  Edna sadly died of dementia in 2009

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 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.

Elspeth Paget, Head of Private Client, Gillespie Macandrew

So many are now 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.

Elspeth Paget, Head of Private Client, Gillespie Macandrew

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.

While 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 wouldn’t have allowed him to move her in.

Putting a Power of Attorney in place while you are fit and well means you can ensure 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.