Appointing power of attorney and navigating the difficult situation of a loved one receiving a dementia diagnosis is a complicated challenge. In recent months, these kinds of complex situations have been bought to the limelight with the focus on Britney Spear’s conservatorship.
The legal guardianship placed on Spears is the same as those typically used for those incapable of making decisions about their own lives, such as those with dementia. While the Britney case and Free Britney campaign have bought light to these kinds of situations and legal complications, many people are still unaware of the rules surrounding powers of attorney.
When someone close to you, whether that be a parent of other relative, is diagnosed with dementia, there is a lot to process. On top of handling the difficult emotions that come with this kind of news, you also need to think about the person’s future and their requirements. In these early stages you should focus on understanding their wishes for the future and putting the appropriate measures in place before things deteriorate.
At Dootsons Solicitors, we are often asked about power of attorney situations for individuals with dementia, so we have put together this guide to explain what you need to know.
What Is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a legal document which gives someone permission and responsibility to act on behalf of another person. Someone with power of attorney can make decisions about healthcare and financial decisions but unless it is a Lasting Power of Attorney it cannot be used. The holder of a Lasting Power of Attorney will be able to manage the affairs of someone with dementia who is unable to do this for themselves. A person who gives or makes a Lasting Power of Attorney is usually called a Grantor.
Who Can Hold a Lasting Power of Attorney?
The person who is granted power of attorney is known as the attorney, and choosing the attorney is a critical decision and should not be taken lightly. Whoever is granted power of attorney over an individual with dementia will have to be a trustworthy individual who is able to handle and make complex financial and medical decisions.
In some cases, power of attorney is granted to several individuals, so that there is not one single person in charge of all of the decisions. It is important that they should be able to get on and be able to compromise to make the decisions in the Grantor’s best interests.
There are two types of Lasting Powers of Attorney – one for Health and Welfare; and one for Property and Financial Affairs. It is not uncommon for different people to be appointed attorney for each power.
Can Someone with Early-Stage Dementia Give Power Of Attorney?
In an ideal situation, an adult would appoint an attorney under a lasting power of attorney before any medical crisis, such as a diagnosis of dementia. Most of the time, this isn’t the case, and an attorney needs to be appointed after a diagnosis has been made. It is possible to make lasting powers of attorney after being diagnosed with dementia, and an experienced solicitor can help with this.
The grantor must have capacity to understand what the document means, what it does, and what they are agreeing to. The majority of adults with early-stage dementia are capable of making this decision for themselves but it is a matter of judgment and sometimes it is necessary to involve a medical professional to confirm that the grantor is capable of making the decision to appoint.
Can Someone with Mid To Late Stage Dementia Give Power Of Attorney?
If a power of attorney has not been given, and the individual is further along in the dementia stages, the situation can become a lot more complex. When dementia gets to the point where the adult cannot understand the power of attorney process and documentation, it will be necessary to apply to court for the appropriate order to be able to deal with that person’s affairs. This is a lengthy and expensive process.
In these cases, a court will need to review the situation and appoint a Receiver. This is usually a family member, but sometimes will be a court appointee.
Any attorney or receiver must act in the grantor/patient’s best interests.
Try to Act Before it Goes Too Far
It is always best to arrange a lasting power of attorney before dementia progresses and the individual is not capable of making these decisions for themselves. Having to apply to be appointed as a receiver can lead to considerable and stressful delays in accessing monies to pay for the patient’s care.
Whatever situation you are in with yourself or a family member with a dementia diagnosis, we are here to help. Our team at Dootsons are experts in handling power of attorney situations and can offer advice or answer any questions you may have.