It is estimated by Alzheimer’s Disease International that over 46 million people worldwide are living with dementia, a number that could increase to over 131 million by 2050. These are of course only estimates as more often than not, brain disorders or dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common, is not something that is often spoken about publicly by those living with dementia, or their families.
The social stigma of dementia is such that it is often brushed under the carpet. Losing memory, getting disorientated, suffering from a lack of judgment and having problems with language are all signs of the onset of dementia and can lead to some long term and devastating effects. These could include strains being placed upon families and relationships and a slow rate of diagnosis and support, with ultimately the potential for the dehumanisation of the individual.
Events such as World Alzheimer’s day, which has been widened to include the whole month of September to World Alzheimer’s Month, are important to help raise awareness of the issue and give guidance to those who might be concerned they are developing or displaying symptoms.
Although there is currently no cure, there are a wide-range of supporting organisations to help people. In the UK, where dementia is the biggest killer, the Alzheimer’s Society is the leading charity that campaigns for change, funds research to find a cure and supports people living with dementia. The lockdown enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic has made the support functions provided by these organisations even harder and might possibly lead to a larger number of people demonstrating the symptoms thanks to the extraordinary circumstances we found ourselves in during the year.
As investment managers, we have a responsibility to ensure we are managing clients’ investment portfolios in a suitable manner for their individual circumstances and to be reactive, as and when these circumstances change, for whatever reason. We might experience a change in the way our clients communicate with us or notice a different attitude to their wealth and often, this is as a result of a new vulnerability and the onset of dementia can be one such example. In these cases, difficulties arise when no provisions have been put in place, meaning decisions about how and what to invest might not be made rationally or the client might withdraw inwards and be hard to get hold of. One specific measure to help mitigate the risks caused by such vulnerabilities is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
LPAs give authority for someone of your choosing to make important decisions on your behalf in the event that you become incapable of doing so or wish to step back from making financial decisions. Putting an LPA in place can make things easier for your friends and family in the long term and putting it off can result in a more expensive and difficult process. The other benefit of LPAs is that it can start discussions within a family about your inheritance plans and one thing we advise all our clients when reviewing their financial affairs, is to communicate their plans – putting everyone in the picture can help alleviate problems further down the line.
To discuss tax and estate planning, please contact one of our investment managers who will be happy to arrange a meeting with one of our Chartered Financial Planners or contact a solicitor who can help you put an LPA in place.
For further information about LPAs, we have featured a number of authors on the subject in various JM Finn publications: