Dementia - plan for the future 

By Dementia Auckland

Dementia is unique to each person who experiences it. While some people retain certain skills for a long time, other skills can decline rapidly.

By planning ahead, you can make it easier for your family and carers who may be helping to manage your affairs.

It also means your wishes can be made known to others so these can be carried out for you.

By making a plan in the early stages of dementia, it also means you are able to understand, and be involved with any decisions, as well as being legally competent to sign necessary documents.

Enduring Power of Attorney

As dementia progresses, it can become harder to make important life decisions.

You can help protect your future with an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA), which is a legal arrangement that ensures someone you know and trust, your ‘attorney’ will make decisions about you if you can no longer do that for yourself.

Older man laughs next to son/grandson

Your ‘attorney’ can be anyone you trust to understand and respect your wishes. Usually they are a friend or family member or a colleague but they must be over 20 years old, not bankrupt and mentally capable.

Appointing an attorney can give you peace of mind because it means your family will not have to go through the stress of obtaining a court order to make decisions on your behalf.

It means you can feel safe knowing important aspects of your life, from your favourite possessions to your welfare, are protected by someone who cares about you.

There are two types of EPAs.   One is designed to cover your money and assets (defined as property), which can come into effect as soon as you wish.

The second type of EPA covers your personal care and welfare, and only comes into effect with sign off from a medical professional.

You can only have one attorney for your personal care and welfare; however, you can have multiple attorneys for your property.

It is your choice as to whether your attorney’s power applies to everything, or just parts of your care.

The attorney you choose must act in your best interests at all times, and involve you in their decisions, as long as you are able.

It is possible for you to name other people who you want your attorneys to consult with when it comes to EPA decisions.

Once you have an attorney in mind and what is required of them, you need to arrange a lawyer, qualified legal executive, or a representative of a trustee corporation to be your witness.

They will guide you through the process and ensure you understand everything.

Finances and Wills

It is best to get in touch with your local dementia organisation, or have a meeting with your bank manager, an accredited financial advisor, or solicitor to ensure that you can give authority of your bank accounts to another person.

As dementia progresses, it may be difficult for you to use the bank account in appropriate ways.

Giving authority for your bank accounts can only be done while you are legally competent to do so.

You will be able to arrange how and when you will have access to your finances and make a plan for the future.

It is important to update your Will so that your wishes for your estate are upheld.

Wills are only legal while you can understand their implications so it is essential your Will is up to date, it’s known who the executor is, and where the Will is kept.

You may also wish to consider putting in place an advance care plan.

This is not legally binding, however it is taken into serious consideration when making decisions for you if you are no longer able to communicate.

You can talk to a solicitor, the Citizens Advice Bureau, your local dementia branch, or you can go to www.advancecareplanning.org.nz.

More information

If you or your loved one would like to learn more about dementia, there is plenty of support available.

In the Auckland region alone, more than 15,000 people are living with dementia.

Dementia Auckland is one not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing dementia support services and inspiring those living with dementia to make the most of life.

They believe with the right support programmes, improved environments, and connection to community, people affected by dementia can continue to make the most of each moment.

Many local organisations across New Zealand can help provide support, education, information and related services directly to members of the community who are living with dementia.

These services may include education to assist with understanding and living with a dementia diagnosis; support for family, friends and whānau coping with the demands of caring; and support groups and day programmes for people affected by dementia.

They can also advise you on the services available in your local community.

Visit www.dementiaauckland.org.nz for more information on services available near you.

For information nationally, you can go to Alzheimers New Zealand website.

Editor's note: Views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the Office for Seniors.