This week is Dementia Action Week, and in 2021 the focus will be on supporting the 1.6 million Australians who are committed to caring for people with dementia. I would like to take this opportunity to share initial steps that individuals and their families can take to protect and support themselves beforehand in the event that a diagnosis of dementia is possible in their future.
Share your wishes with your loved ones
An early step to take in planning to start dementia is to be open about communicating your end-of-life wants and preferences with those around you.
This not only ensures that those around you have a common understanding of your interests if you lose capacity. it will also prepare loved ones mentally and emotionally for the possibility.
It goes without saying that too many Australians are inadequately prepared to be diagnosed with dementia. Too many family members who are already affected by sudden grief have to make decisions for the loved one that they have never spoken about. By speaking to loved ones early on, you are giving them the tools they need to make a difficult journey a little smoother.
Hiring a lawyer
An important step in the planning process is appointing an attorney through an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA). A finance attorney is a person of trust, person or trust company who are authorized to make financial and legal decisions for you once you are legally competent.
It’s easy for people to assume that immediate family members are the best finance lawyers, but there are times when they don’t. Appointing a family member can place undue stress on a caregiver and sometimes result in decisions not being made in the person’s best interests – be it intentional or harmless.
It is also an unfortunate truth that elder abuse is an increasingly worrying topic in Australia, although it has remained somewhat in the shadows. Close relatives are the most common perpetrators of elderly abuse in Australia, and there are countless stories of family members abusing their authority to psychologically abuse victims or steal money for their own benefit.
Professional advice and services are available
My final piece of advice for the planning process is to realize that each person’s social and family circumstances are different. It is not uncommon for people to decide that no close relatives are appropriate lawyers. Alternatively, a person may entrust relatives to act as lawyers but not want to burden them with managing their affairs. There is always a solution and professional services are here to help.
Regardless of your situation, it pays to seek professional help from a fiduciary service provider. Fiduciary services can help every step of the planning journey and your wellbeing is always the focus. Fiduciary services do much more than just provide assistance; you can be appointed by a guardianship court as a finance attorney or trustee and, if necessary, manage your financial and legal affairs directly. They can also aid your future planning by writing your will and assisting you with your estate planning.
The prevalence of dementia continues to rise as Australians get older. Just like with end-of-life planning, the early steps we take today can save your loved ones a tremendous burden and ensure your well-being and best interests.
IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE This article is general in nature and is for informational purposes only as it does not take into account your financial or legal situation, goals or needs. That means it is not a financial product or legal advice and should not be relied on. Before making any financial or legal decision, find out if the information is appropriate for your situation and obtain independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.