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Alzheimer Disease: Planning for the future from the start

Alzheimer’s in our world
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia and affects an estimated 850,000 people in the UK. It is thought to affect 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 and 1 in 6 people over the age of 80. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s is heightened with increased age, however a family history of the condition and repeated head injuries can also make you as an individual more vulnerable.
As a progressive neurological disease affecting multiple brain functions Alzheimer’s has a significant impact on the memory. As the symptoms of Alzheimer disease can develop slowly it can be difficult to recognise that there is a problem, as often people attribute memory problems to the natural side-effect of getting older.
Assisting someone with Alzheimer’s
People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will eventually and inevitably reach a point where they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves. In the eyes of the law this person has lost their legal capacity, and it will now be necessary for someone else to make decisions on their behalf.
The Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act introduced a number of different measures to safeguard vulnerable adults. Including  a person can be appointed as the incapacitated adult’s guardian, or  when they were still able they could have granted a power of attorney.
A guardianship application is a complicated and lengthy legal process (unfortunately taking around six months to a year) which will result in the court making the determination as to the appropriateness of person seeking to be appointed as legal guardian. The process can be stressful for friends and family, especially when dealing with the decline of a loved-one due to Alzheimer disease.
A power of attorney, on the other hand, is a legally executed document granted by the adult in favour of a trusted-other.  This must be done prior to the adult losing their capacity: once capacity has been lost a guardianship (or lesser measures)  will become the only option.
Planning for the future
Each one of us will have taken out insurance when we travel, we are likely to insure the contents of our home against theft or damage and maybe take out life assurance or critical illness cover, and each time you pay your premiums you hope that you will not have to make a claim or are thankful when you do! A power of attorney should be thought of in a similar fashion. If you put it in place, and allow your solicitor to draft it in such a way to allow longevity of application, then you should never have to repay the ‘premium’ and it will always be there just in case you need it.
A continuing power of attorney can be granted to allow your ‘attorney’ to manage your financial affairs. This will come into effect at the time of the granting. A welfare power of attorney can be granted to allow your ‘attorney’ to make decisions as to your personal welfare. This can be for big decisions such as where you live or what medical treatment you are to undergo to little decisions, like how you cut your hair or get dressed in the morning. This will only come into effect at the point that capacity of the granter is lost. Often these powers are contained in one deed known as a combined power of attorney which can be granted in favour of the same or different people.
There are an infinite number of ways in which an adult could lose their capacity. However with increased awareness of the commonality of Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia, and the effects that the disease can have, it is advisable to insure yourself against the risk now and to get a power of attorney, before it may be too late. 
To speak to someone within our Private Client team please call us on 0131 200 1200.