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September is World Alzheimer’s Month with 21st September marked as World Alzheimer’s Day. This annual campaign is a good way to raise the profile of charities, take part in some fundraising and join the conversation around Alzheimer’s and dementia.

   

This year’s focus is to highlight and educate people on the warning signs of dementia. Spotting signs early can really help families to get a head start on getting the right care for their loved ones and can significantly improve the quality of life for those living with dementia. A timely diagnosis can be difficult, given the complexities of dementia, the strain that the healthcare system is under and the lack of social contact that families have had over the last 18 months due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

   

What is Alzheimer’s?

 

Dementia is the collective term used for many different progressive conditions that effect the brain and cognitive function. There are over 200 different types of dementia, but the most common one, which many people have experienced themselves or through loved ones is Alzheimer’s.

   

Alzheimer’s is a physical disease that affects the function of the brain. Abnormalities and chemicals build up inside the brain and these disrupt nerve cells, causing them to deteriorate and eventually die. Different parts of the brain can be affected, which is why there are many different symptoms and severities, which vary from person to person.

   

Alzheimer’s usually begins with mild memory loss and as the disease progresses this can worsen and impact other parts of the person’s life. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, however there are some treatments that can help to ease symptoms or slow down the progression.

   

Whilst it is most commonplace in the elderly, there are large numbers of younger people across the world who are diagnosed with different forms of dementia every single day.

   

The Importance of an Early Diagnosis

 

An early diagnosis can greatly help the person living with dementia and it can also give reassurance and peace of mind to family members and carer.

   

Being tested for dementia early can help to rule out any other medical problems which might be the cause of the symptoms. It is also useful to understand which form of dementia someone has so that the right care can be given, and people can know what to expect over the coming months and years.

   

Whilst there is no known cure, receiving a diagnosis can help people to get treatment for the symptoms and put in place a long-term and short-term care plan. There is a lot to consider when someone is diagnosed and reacting quickly can help you to get living arrangements and legal affairs organised whilst loved ones still have the capacity to make decisions themselves.

   

There are various tests and assessments including taking a history of symptoms, checking for underlying conditions, blood tests, mental ability tests and brain scans. The starting point for any concerns should be with a GP, who may refer onto a dementia specialist.

   

woman with dementia completing puzzle of a brain dementia solicitor Alzheimer's awareness

Dementia Warning Signs

 

Dementia is NOT a normal part of aging. It can be a common misconception that everyone starts to forget things in later life, when actually this should be carefully considered as a warning sign of a larger issue.

   

Symptoms and signs of dementia include:

 
  • Memory loss or forgetfulness
  • Difficulty performing everyday familiar tasks (for example making a cup of tea)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems with speech, language and communication
  • Disorientation with places and times
  • Problems keeping track of things or keeping up with conversations
  • Changes in mood or behaviour
  • Misplacing things
  • Trouble with spacial awareness and distances
  • Eyesight problems
  • Increase in accidents such as spilling drinks, dropping things or falling
  • Withdrawing from social occasions
  • Repeatedly asking the same questions
  • Becoming confused with numbers or money
  • Becoming anxious in new places or busy surroundings
  • Changes in personality and their usual traits
  • Problems with movement
  • Confusion, hallucinations and sleep deprovision
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
 

This is an extensive list of symptoms, and it is important to remember that having one or even a number of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that someone has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. It could be age-related, different medical problems or even side effects from medication, but it is important to rule factors out.

     

Legal Support and Dementia

 

Whilst care and wellbeing takes priority after someone is diagnosed or starts to show progressive signs of dementia, it is important to address legal affairs before it is too late.

   

Two things to consider initially are Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney.

   

Both legal documents must be made whilst someone has the mental capacity to make important decisions and represent themselves. As dementia progresses, mental capacity becomes questionable and is eventually lost, meaning that families can struggle to put their affairs in order.

   

If someone does not have a will or wishes to update / make changes to their will, it is vital that this is done before capacity is lost to ensure that their instructions are followed when they die.

   

A Lasing Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document which appoints someone else to take over when someone is no longer able to care for themselves or make key decisions. There are two types of LPA. One which covers health and wellbeing – such as decisions around care, medical treatment, lifestyle and where someone lives. The other is relating to property and financial affairs – giving someone the power to manage bank accounts, pay bills, sell property and deal with financial transactions. Both types of LPA can be particularly useful tools that allow families to care for their loved one.

   

If someone does not have an LPA and lacks the capacity to put one in place, then you can apply to the Court of Protection to appoint a Deputy. This can be a complex process which takes time and incurs fees. At Lamb Brooks, our specialist lawyers can guide you through this, but it is much easier to have protection in place before it gets to this stage where possible.

   

Talk to Lamb Brooks

 

Our Private Client team at Lamb Brooks have undergone several training and development courses to give Solicitors the skills and understanding to work with families and individuals affected by dementia.

   

For more information on protecting the legal interests of someone with dementia or to put in place protection for yourself for the future, please call our friendly and experienced Private Client team on 01256 844888. Alternatively, you can email us at enquiries@lambbrooks.com or leave your contact information via our website for a Solicitor to call you back.

Other Articles You May Be Interested in Reading:

How to Choose an Executor or Attorney

Taking Care of Aging Parents

Dos and Don’ts – Dealing with Dementia

How to Explain Dementia to Children

     

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.