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Welfare MATTERS – Winter Newsletter 2017

Welcome to our Winter 2017 Welfare Matters newsletter. We were privileged to have Professor June Andrews OBE FRCN, International Dementia Expert, as our guest speaker at our recent evening at Bonhams.

Jo Downie, Client Welfare Manager, gives useful advice on what to look for if you are choosing a care home. And Jo and Fiona Shand enjoyed finding out more about new technology designed to help people live well with dementia. 

We hope you enjoy reading more about this and wish you all the best for the upcoming festive period.

In this edition

An evening at Bonhams

Take care to choose the right home

Confident conversations about technology

Meet the team

An evening at Bonhams

Balfour+Manson’s Private Client Department hosted an informal evening, surrounded by artwork, at Bonhams auction rooms.  We welcomed around 100 attendees who all took advantage of the opportunity to find out more about recent legal and tax changes in the context of changing demographics across the generations.  We were delighted to have as our guest speaker Professor June Andrews OBE FRCN, International Dementia Expert and author of ‘Dementia: the one stop guide’, and to hear her views on how art, amongst other things, can play an important part in living well with dementia.

Key issues that were highlighted included the younger generation’s struggle to afford quality housing, trying to save up a deposit to buy their own home whilst paying high rents or often having to move back in with parents.  We looked at whether the older generation could help out, perhaps making lifetime gifts to grandchildren in the context of inheritance tax planning.

The ‘sandwich generation’

The ‘sandwich generation’ are those squeezed in the middle, with children at home (whether still very young, or older children who can’t afford to move out) and with older parents starting to need extra support as well, particularly if a family member is diagnosed with dementia and needs help with managing the symptoms.  It’s hard to overestimate the financial and time pressures on this generation, and we discussed that they need to take a bit of time to look after themselves too, as much as they are being called upon to care for others.

For the older generation, it’s so important to take good advice on wills, tax planning and letting people know your wishes.  This is when concerns about dementia and future care options might come to the fore and it helps to alleviate worries if you have appointed someone you trust, who knows you well, to act as attorney for you should your circumstances change. 

Professor Andrews’ expert views

Professor Andrews spoke realistically and pragmatically about managing the symptoms of dementia.  Her involvement with the Dementia Services Development Trust has led to a much better understanding of what can be done to maintain good quality of life and delay deterioration caused by the underlying illness.  She was keen to remind us all that staying physically active is one of the most important things we can all do to stay healthy, particularly for people with dementia, and that social activity is also key to reduce the possibility of becoming lonely and isolated and suffering from depression.

It is a widely held belief that art and music can be therapeutic for people with dementia, but Professor Andrews tempered this by reminding us that not all art is therapeutic, or to everyone’s taste, or within everyone’s realms of experience, or, indeed, any good whatsoever!  It served as a reminder not to treat everyone the same or to assume that what one person might enjoy and respond well to will have the same impact to another.

We rounded off the evening by pitting our wits against the auctioneers.  Charles Graham-Campbell of Bonhams showed a selection of artworks and artefacts and soon demonstrated how market trends change and the sometimes surprising values being fetched at auction for items which some of us might otherwise overlook.  It was an interesting and fun reminder to ask for professional opinions if you are de-cluttering, downsizing or helping a family member move into residential care.

There is a lot to be done to understand better how to help people with dementia, and the prospect of a cure being found is still a distant one.  In the meantime, there are steps that we can all take to ease concerns, whether they relate to finances, accommodation or social contact with friends and family, and we take heart from the very positive outcomes of ongoing research which our experts, here in Scotland, are leading.

Take care to choose the right home

Finding a care home for yourself or a relative can seem overwhelming and daunting.  Jo and Fiona, our Client Welfare Managers, are very experienced in advising clients and their families through this life-changing move and know the importance of taking into account your feelings about this as well as the practical considerations involved.

Moving into a care home is a huge lifestyle change, so it is important that the home you choose is the ‘right’ one.  Edinburgh has many different care homes which suit different people’s circumstances.  Some care homes are large converted houses in vast grounds, others are very small, some are newly built with all mod cons, almost like hotels.  Then there are considerations such as the level of nursing care required, specialist dementia units, or regular in-house physiotherapy and activity leaders.  

Don’t feel you have to make this big decision alone – take a friend or family member with you, they might notice things you miss and have helpful suggestions and opinions. In our experience, there are a number of key factors to take into account.

The location and accessibility of the home for your family and friends, who may be elderly themselves, can they easily visit?
Can your community links be maintained, your church, lunch clubs, etc?
Are there local shops and cafes so that you can go out with friends when they visit?
Is there internet access, TV, music?
Can friends stay for lunch? Are there rooms available for family to stay if they are coming from a distance, or is there a convenient hotel or B&B?
A home needs to feel comfortable, warm and welcoming.
What are the bedrooms like? Are they spacious enough, can you bring your own furniture and paintings?
Is there a call button system in the room and do staff come quickly?
Is there an en-suite bathroom or wet room, can you have a bath if you don’t like showers whenever you like?
Is the food nice, is it cooked within the home and is there a choice – can you come for lunch before you decide?
Does the home smell pleasant? Is it light and airy?
Is the laundry managed well, do all your clothes need to be marked before your move?
Is there an easily accessed garden you can wander and sit in safely?
Are the public spaces comfortable and welcoming? Is there somewhere you can sit with your family if they visit?
Is there a hairdresser?
Are there activities that you would enjoy? Fitness classes, a mini bus for outings, lectures, entertainment?
Medical factors
Can the home manage your needs?
Can you keep your own GP?
Are there nurses, dentists, opticians, chiropodists, physiotherapists? Any other therapists available?
Is there space for wheelchairs in the corridors and bedrooms?
Get personal!
Do the staff take a personal interest in you so that they can tailor your care to whom you are?
Do the staff address you as you wish?
Is your privacy upheld – do they knock before entering your bedroom?
Are visitors welcomed at any time? Or are there set visiting times?
Are you allowed to make a cup of coffee or tea whenever you wish, can you have a fridge in your room?
Are you allowed to have a glass of wine or sherry when you wish?
Can you come and go as you please?

A good manager will be happy to answer all your questions easily and transparently.  If possible, arrange a trial visit before you commit to a home, this could be for lunch or dinner – sometimes a trial visit for a week or two may be possible.  Make sure you get a good feeling that the home is the right one for you.

Moving in

While some people settle in quickly, this is not always be the case, so don’t worry if it takes you a little longer.  All good homes will recognise that it is going to take time and a good manager will spend extra time guiding you through the first few weeks.  In most care homes you will be allocated a ‘named carer or nurse’ who will get to know your likes and dislikes and what will help with the settling in period.  Remember that it’s natural to feel unsettled, ask your family and friends to meet you regularly and keep those contacts going.  It takes time, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you need a bit extra help.

Confident conversations about technology 

Technology is an everyday part of our lives! We also know that technology can be invaluable in helping people with dementia to live a safe and healthy life. 

Jo and Fiona attended a seminar run by the Dementia Circle www.dementiacircle.org  which is part of Alzheimer Scotland – learning about all the new gadgets that are on the market to help people live well with dementia.  From speaking clocks to easy to operate mobile phones and tracking devices, it was really uplifting to see how technology can make a very positive impact in day to day living. 

Jo and Fiona assist our elderly and vulnerable clients to live as independent life as possible and technology can help manage risks, improve quality of life and support people to stay in their own home for as long as possible.

Meet the team
Shona Brown, Head of Private Client and the Client Welfare Team

Shona is a Private Client Partner and heads up our client welfare team.  She has a particular interest in working with elderly and vulnerable people and those who lack capacity, as well as supporting their families. Her expertise includes setting up and managing trusts including personal injury trusts, succession planning, asset protection and tax planning. Shona originally qualified and worked as a dentist before returning to university to study law in 1991.

Jo Downie

Jo is our Client Welfare and Estates Manager which combines her unique background in nursing and in antiques and fine art.  As well as looking after vulnerable clients, supporting them through moving home, she has an excellent eye for placing items in auction and is often to be found examining her friends’ household contents. 

Fiona Shand

Fiona, our Client Welfare Manager, has a background in community policing and social work and focuses on guiding clients through the state benefits system as well as helping clients access care at home or move into alternative care settings.  She really enjoys reading books with murderous themes.

Elizabeth Sparks

Elizabeth is a solicitor with a particular interest in guardianship applications as well as powers of attorney, wills and executries.  She tutors Revenue Law at Edinburgh University and maintains that this is very interesting.  She enjoys holidaying on Colonsay to get away from it all.

Catriona Torrance

Catriona is a private client solicitor specialising in wills, powers of attorney, executries and related matters. However, she prefers to say that she specialises in getting to know her clients and offering advice that really suits their particular circumstances.  She has recently discovered an innate aptitude for making the most delicious lemon curd.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article site are solely those of the original authors and other contributors and do not purport to give specific legal advice.