How do I approach the issue of my loved one losing their memory?
As we mature, it is normal for us to worry about our parents and loved ones, especially as they become older and potentially more vulnerable.
If you begin to notice changes in the behaviour of a loved one, particularly with regard to their memory, or if you notice them becoming more frequently confused, it could be a sign that something isn’t quite right. These are the symptoms which are most commonly associated with dementia but they could also be associated with other conditions such as a vitamin deficiency, infection or stress, amongst other things. In order to be sure what the cause is, it is always best to seek the opinion of a medical professional.
Knowing how to go about raising these concerns with a loved one can be difficult, as it is such a sensitive issue. It could be a good idea to start a conversation by asking how the person is and if anything is worrying them. Or, if you feel comfortable doing so, you could maybe suggest that they go to their GP to talk about recent changes in their memory and/or behaviour. It is a scary time but the sooner a diagnosis is made – or reassurance is given that the symptoms are not dementia, or another serious problem – the sooner help and support can be given. If for example the memory loss is not caused by dementia but by stress or a physical illness, that can also be addressed.
As a society, we are all becoming more and more aware of dementia and the surrounding issues. People are more open about their own experiences and seem more willing to talk. You might find that you have friends or colleagues who have experienced the same thing and could offer some help and support.
On a practical level if someone does have problems with their memory and this is diagnosed as a degenerative condition such as Alzheimer’s, it is important to speak to your family member or friend about putting in place a lasting power of attorney and also a will before the illness declines too far, and certainly before the point where your loved one may lose their mental capacity altogether.
A lasting power of attorney is important to ensure a person has already made the decision of who will be their voice if there is ever a time they lose the ability to manage their own finances and/or make decisions about their own health and welfare such as where they live.
By making a lasting power of attorney, someone can choose the person or people they would like to have the legal power to manage their property and financial affairs if in the future they lose the ability to do that themselves. There is also a lasting power of attorney for health and welfare which, if someone loses mental capacity, enables their attorney(s) to speak on their behalf about health and welfare issues such as medical treatment and where they live.
Ann-Marie Matthews is a solicitor in the private client team at Barker Gotelee, Ipswich Solicitors.