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Watching Still Alice

I still find myself affected by the film that touched my heart this past weekend.  The film I watched was called ‘Still Alice.’ It was about a linguistics professor who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50 and her life was turned upside down.  She began by forgetting things like words that due to her level of education and her extensive use of vocabulary were second nature to her. She then began to forget places, and eventually people. In my opinion although Julianne Moore did a brilliant job of depicting the full degeneration of the disease, the film was unable to focus on all of the legal practices which are useful on first diagnosis of the disease.

BookA film can only depict so much; it did not show the family rushing to a solicitor on diagnosis to draft a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) or to discuss their views on life sustaining treatment. The purpose of citing this film is that any individual with a job or a family could in the blink of an eye have it all taken away by a medical condition, the same could happen with a number of situations, for example a road traffic accident.

According to the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK it is now estimated that early onset dementia (dementia diagnosed under the age of 65) accounts for 5.2% of all people with dementia in the UK.

Most of us do not like to consider the worst case scenario, we prefer to think positive and look at the bright side. But once we ‘get our affairs in order’ we can then put this to the back of our minds and we may continue with our lives. 

Some think that considering the negatives is tempting fate but I prefer to think of it as being prepared, similar to insuring your house or your vehicle in case something were to happen because when you consider the alternatives they are far more expensive and can be more distressing for your families who will already be coping with a traumatic experience. ‘Getting your affairs in order’ will hopefully save them a lot of unnecessary stress.

One way to ‘get your affairs in order’ is to create a Lasting Power of Attorney. A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that lets you (the ‘donor’) appoint one or more people (known as ‘attorneys’) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. The point of this is to plan for your future care or any assistance.  An LPA gives you more control over what happens to you if, for example, you have an accident or an illness and can no longer make decisions. It is a key element to a LPA that at the time of making the LPA you have to have sufficient mental capacity to make the document. 

You can have two types of LPA one to manage your property and financial affairs which would be of use if you had difficulty accessing a bank due to mobility reasons or even managing your utility accounts on the telephone due to speech and motor difficulties. You can opt for the document to be used immediately or you can opt for the document to only come into being when you lose capacity.

The second type of LPA is for health and welfare and can be used to dictate whether or not you would like your attorneys to speak on your behalf regarding life sustaining treatment. It can also enable your attorneys to have a say in your future care needs. The LPA for health and welfare can only be used once you lose capacity.

It can take up to 13 weeks for the LPA to be registered with the Court of Protection so it is best to register the document well in advance of the document becoming a necessity. Also, as mentioned previously an LPA can only be made whilst a person still has mental capacity so it is no use contacting a solicitor when a person is no longer able to manage their own affairs.

To find out more about a Lasting Power of Attorney including our fees, please do not hesitate to visit any of our South east London offices ( Bromley, Camberwell or Crystal Palace) or contact us on 0208 771 5254.

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