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How can you make the best legal decisions when you have dementia?

In our job we spend a lot of time helping clients at various stages of dementia make life defining decisions.  We thought it would be useful to share what we have learned makes it easier and more comfortable to make the best legal decisions when you have dementia.  We trust these tips will be useful both for those in the earlier stages of dementia and their families.

The start point is for everyone involved – the client, their families and/or friends and their lawyers and other advisers – to understand exactly where the client is and which decisions they are and aren’t able to make.

If you are at the earlier stage of dementia, it is perfectly possible for you to take many of the decisions we’ll need to make.  As our only objective is to help you make the best possible decisions, we all need to be honest with each other and ready to bring in the help you need from people you trust if required.

What is the ‘best decision’?

When you are making decisions about your future the best decision is the one that is in your best interests, not your family or carer’s best interest, in your best interests.

With regards to making sure the decision made is in your best interests it should:

  • Be made at the right time. In the earliest stages people have good days and bad days.  If a decision can be put off until the next good day, it should be.
  • You should be encouraged and supported to take part in the decision making process wherever possible and have an opportunity to put forward your views as to what you know you’ll need today and in the future.
  • Although these decisions must be yours, you should take into account the views of your family, carers, friends, and advisers as they will have a different perspective you may not have considered.
  • If you aren’t able to play as active a role in the decision making process as you’d like or don’t trust your own final decision for some reason, ask those closest to you what they would do if they were in your position and were making the decision for themselves.

How can lawyers make it easier and more comfortable to make the best legal decisions when you have dementia?

As experienced lawyers, we know that when we are advising clients who may be overwhelmed or puzzled by the technicalities of the advice  have to give, we need to do everything we can to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for you to make the best decisions for yourself.

We do this by:

  • Providing the best environment to work in. If you are in our offices, we’ll do everything we can to make sure you are comfortable in your surroundings.  However, if it’s better for you we will make sure we talk in the most familiar surroundings by visiting you at home.
  • Explaining everything in as few words as possible so you can easily follow what we are doing and why we think it’s the right thing to do.
  • Remaining as physically passive as we can. Albeit subliminally, nodding, smiling, frowning or shaking our heads to make the best decisions if you have dementia too much could influence how you respond to what we’re saying.
  • When we’re working out what you feel it best for you, we’ll always ask ‘what’ rather than ‘why’ so we stay on track and don’t force you to question what you already know.
  • We’ll avoid jargon and popular figures of speech so there’s absolutely no opportunity to misunderstand what we’re going through.

And above all, we’ll never hurry you or try and fill in the blanks for you.  These are your decisions, and we know we need to respect that as we reach to find the very best decisions for your future.

If you or a family member would like help to make taking crucial legal decisions easier and more comfortable, please email Deniece.Lines@collinshoy.com.