There are currently over 50 million people around the world living with dementia, with numbers predicted to rise to 152 million by 2050. And at a time when the world is focused on COVID-19, it is too easy to forget about some of the other challenges which people are living with. There are many people needed to support this conversation, one being my profession.
I remember very early in my career I was asked, as a junior solicitor, to join a client meeting to arrange a Power of Attorney. One of the partners of the firm was meeting with one of his longest standing clients and she clearly trusted him.
She spoke very calmly about the fact that she had just received an Alzheimer's diagnosis. She was anxious to manage, whilst she still could, what would happen to her as her illness progressed -acknowledging this would happen at different speeds and at different times. It was therefore unclear as to when she would need help and what that help would be. As somebody who was very private and who lived on her own, she was seeking our guidance and reassurance that her wishes would be respected.
Morton Fraser has a team which looks after vulnerable people and whilst this is mostly the elderly as they age or become affected by a disease like Alzheimer's, it can be for younger people as well. Our role is to work with individuals and their families to make sure that the best care is provided as somebody becomes unable to manage affairs themselves.
Our client was aware that she was going to become vulnerable. She asked for help with her finances first and we stepped in to help her look after her bank accounts and investments and as she became less able to look after her own welfare we were able to arrange the necessary care at home.
This lady really sticks in my mind because she had been so clear about what she wanted to happen as her illness progressed and she took control of that. As someone starting out in my career she was a vital lesson that an illness like Alzheimer's changes a person completely and that we should always remember and respect the person they were and ensure that the right support is provided at the right time.
I would welcome, and I appreciate others have different views, regulated assisted dying in this country, but whilst this is not an option I believe lawyers have a role in making sure their clients take as much control as the legal system allows. As Alzheimer's is recognised this month, please remember the importance of a Power of Attorney and support World Alzheimer's month.
You can have a Power of Attorney at any age or stage of life. Choose an Attorney you trust and someone who knows your wishes and will be prepared to follow them. Your Attorney has a duty to act in your best interests and as you would have wanted.