“And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will.”
Says Philip Larkin in his poem ‘Aubade’. He is referring to death but he could just as readily have been referring to the onset of old age. That, too, will happen (for most of us, anyway).
There is nothing we can do to defer it or stave it off, but we can plan ahead for it and prepare for the worst: that worst being, dementia. Of course, that may not happen. Many elderly people remain mentally acute until their dying day. But, as the population ages, it is statistically certain, that the incidence of dementia will increase.
Dementia robs you of your ability to manage your own life and means that someone else has to perform those functions for you, such as paying bills, dealing with investments and balancing budgets. A loss of mental capacity leaves the sufferer helpless in the world and very vulnerable, unable to do even the trivial things that we all take in our stride and do several times a day.
Yes, that is a bleak outlook and until medical science produces a cure to this dreadful condition, the only thing that we can do to ensure that our affairs remain in order following the onset of dementia is to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
A LPA is a legal instrument which allows you to appoint someone that you trust to run your affairs for you if you become unable to run them yourself. It allows you to set conditions on how that person should act and the kind of decisions that they can make on your behalf. Really, it is a kind of insurance policy and it is far better to have one and not need it, rather than need one and not have it.
Whilst this impulse to put off these unpleasant tasks is understandable, it should be resisted. If you do not have a LPA, then if you lose mental capacity the only alternative is for someone to make an application to the Court of Protection for Deputyship of your affairs – a process that is complex, expensive and over which you will have no say.
You have the power at your disposal today to make decisions in advance and protect yourself, as best you can, against the worst that tomorrow can bring.
For more information on Lasting Powers, visit our Frequently Asked Questions.
By David Carr of High Street Lawyer Hampstead