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New drugs breakthrough highlights 'financial abuse of dementia sufferers

by Access Legal


News of a breakthrough drug treatment for Alzheimer's Disease is very welcome, especially in light of new statistics highlighting an increase in UK dementia cases.

More than 700,000 people in the UK already have dementia, and 163,000 new cases occur each year, with the number of sufferers expected to top one million by 2025.

Dementia is a degenerative brain disorder, which causes problems with memory and behaviour, greatly affecting a person's ability to deal with everyday tasks, particularly concerning financial affairs.

Sadly, the 'financial abuse' of dementia sufferers and the elderly is increasing, but can be avoided if people appoint a trusted friend, relative or professional person to look after financial affairs in the event that they become incapable of doing so themselves. The person appointed to deal with the financial affairs is called an attorney.

Before 1 October 2007, it was possible to appoint an attorney in a document called an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA), and it is believed nearly 300,000 people have done so.

An EPA is registered with the Court of Protection once the person who made it loses mental capacity. The attorney is then free to deal with financial tasks such as paying bills, making investments, even selling a house.

Nearly 11,000 EPAs were registered between April and September 2007, an increase of 15%.  This reinforces statistics about increasing cases of dementia, and highlights the importance of having a document in place which helps the large number of people trying to deal with the financial affairs of an incapable person.

Then on 1 October 2007, a new system called Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) replaced EPAs, extending the power of an attorney to make decisions for a mentally incapable person.

The LPA can cover decisions on health and welfare, such as the type of medical treatment received or the choice of care home. Different people can be named to make decisions for each area.

EPAs and LPAs are invaluable tools for families looking after a loved one who has lost mental capacity, either through dementia or through a sudden life changing event such as a stroke or head injury.

Not having an EPA or LPA in place often causes problems, and in many cases leads to a long and costly court application being made.


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