When someone is diagnosed with dementia, health issues take the spotlight. We worry a lot about our elders’ mental health that we forget to deal with fundamental legal issues that are just as vital as health and must be addressed with the same efficiency. Addressing these issues at the very first stages of the disease means getting ready for the future, and preparing for a moment in which this person will no longer think consciously nor be able to make legal decisions without support.
1. Consent to treatment
When facing a health issue, we as patients must be able to make medical decisions. The inability to make decisions by oneself is called impaired capacity, which is very common in patients with dementia. The law protects patients with impaired capacity and created a series of procedures and safeguards to let patients give consent to medical treatments or interventions on their own. However, as dementia worsens, it affects the mental capabilities of the patient, reaching a moment in which they can’t give valid consent. To be ready for this moment, it is important that patients designate an attorney or a guardian that makes all decisions on their behalf.
2. Advance care planning
Advance care planning is a way to make your health treatment decisions and preferences known in advance. It allows to stipulate what kind of treatments or interventions the patient feels comfortable with and which ones they don’t want to undergo, whether they want measures to extend life to be applied and for how long or to be let go smoothly, or if they would like to donate their organs after death. Patients can leave a written statement in which they declare how they want to be treated before they become unable to make decisions or pass away.
Wills are designed to decide in advance what is going to occur with personal assets, like belongings, money, and properties, after death. This is an excellent way to make sure a person’s wishes are fulfilled when they are gone, there are help guides for seniors to choosing their plans & wishes before the time comes, so family aren’t left planning and paying for everything. The patient can write it on its own, but it’s better if they receive help from a solicitor, who then will also sign it to make it legal.
What matter the most is that people with dementia can exercise their rights, make plans and make decisions on their own before they can no longer do so, to make sure everything is carried according to their preferences. If you want to learn more about legal issues and the rights of people with dementia, don’t forget to but the book “10 questions about the law and dementia in Scotland” by the Dementia Services Development Centre.