After a diagnosis of dementia, it is a good idea to make decisions about your future as early as possible. Click on the links below to read more.
If you have been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimers New Zealand would recommend you talk to your GP about whether you are safe to continue driving.
Warning signs that dementia may be affecting your driving include:
- becoming lost on a route that would previously not have confused you
- not being able to make sound judgements about what is happening on the road
- ignoring traffic lights and signals
- driving too slowly
If you have noticed any of these changes you might like to ask a friend or family member what they think of your driving skills.
Insurance companies require the disclosure of any condition likely to affect the driver's ability, or they may exclude cover. It is vital you ask your insurance company if you are covered should an accident occur.
Some people decide to voluntarily relinquish their licence. Others decide to sit a driving test, while some doctors will recommend a person stops driving without the need for a test. In any of these situations, the transition to life without driving can be a very difficult one. Talking about your feelings with a trusted friend or family member may help.
The Office for Senior Citizens have released a pamphlet called ‘How will you get around when you stop driving?’. This pamphlet is about how you can adjust to life without a car without losing independence and freedom.
If you can find alternative methods to get around, you may find giving up driving less stressful. Obvious alternatives include walking, taxis, public transport or asking a family member or friend to give you a lift. Your local council might also have subsidised transport schemes.
The New Zealand Transport Agency has an information sheet called Dementia and Driving which has more information. (Alzheimers national office can send out hard copies of this information sheet - please call 04 381 2362 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you are still working you may be having some problems in your job as a result of dementia. Consider speaking to your employer about dementia and your symptoms as it will be easier if they are involved from the beginning. It may be possible to keep working a little longer by reducing your hours or changing your responsibilities. Your employer may be prepared to find other kinds of jobs within the organisation, which are more appropriate to your changing capabilities. If you own your own business, you will want to plan for its future.
If employment is not feasible you may wish to find yourself a task or hobby that you enjoy and which keeps you active and happy. Some people find taking on voluntary work is one way to keep their brain active and a chance to use their skills while continuing to make a valuable contribution to the community. Volunteering New Zealand is an association of volunteer organisations which encourages and supports effective volunteering. Find out more by calling 0800 865 268 or visit www.volunteernow.org.nz.
You can also contact Work and Income New Zealand to see if you are eligible for a benefit.
Make sure all your important documents are in order, including bank statements, insurance policies, rent, mortgage and other financial papers. Tell someone you trust where these are kept. You might want to consider setting up direct debits or automatic payments for your regular bills.
Having a will ensures that when you die your money and possessions go to the people of your choice. It is important to seek legal advice when a will is set-up or updated and to let your lawyer know you have been diagnosed with dementia. If the lawyer is unsure of someone's mental capability they may recommend an appropriately qualified health professional (usually your GP) to check their decision-making abilities. It is important to follow this procedure as it will reduce the chance of family and friends arguing about the validity of the will after someone has died.
Sometimes referred to as a ‘living will', an advance directive states what medical treatments you would like to receive in the future, if you are unable to make or communicate these decisions yourself. It allows you to tell your doctor what treatment you do or don't want in a particular situation. It is a good idea to involve your doctor when you write up your advance directive as they can help you go through the issues involved. It may also be beneficial to write this with a relative or a close friend so they understand your wishes. The New Zealand Medical Association has written a document with more information about advance directives as well as an advance directive sample form.
An Enduring Power of Attorney is an authority given by you to another person to look after and control your affairs when you are unable to do so. It is vital that you arrange Enduring Powers of Attorney for affairs such as finance, property, health and welfare.
People often appoint one person to manage their care and welfare and another to manage their finances and property. You can have more than one attorney for property, who could be a person, or a trustee company. However, only one welfare attorney can be appointed and they must be an individual (not a trustee company).
When appointing an attorney, consider whether they have the skills, judgement and time to handle your affairs. This person or company will have considerable power over your property, affairs and welfare, so take the time to make this decision.
It is important you set up an Enduring Power of Attorney now, when you feel able to organise your own affairs. The attorney will take over when you can no longer manage on your own.
For more information on wills, enduring power of attorney and advance directives, see Alzheimers New Zealand information sheet thirteen, Legal matters.
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