Approaching conversations about the loss of mental capacity

It can feel awkward to bring up the topic of mental capacity. In this blog, we talk through how you could approach this sensitive topic.

You want to bring it up, but you don’t know how. You feel uncomfortable. You tell yourself you’re waiting for an opportune moment.

Then one comes. Maybe the adverts come on when you’re watching The Chase. But you still can’t bring yourself to say anything. It’s the final chase next, you tell yourself. We can’t be having a serious conversation through the final chase. It’s a weak excuse but it is an excuse so you snatch at it.

When it’s over you try to speak but the words don’t come. So you don’t bother. You tell yourself you’ll bring it up tomorrow and you spend the rest of the evening trying to ignore the gnawing voice in the back of your head.

Talking about the loss of mental capacity is awkward whichever way you look at it. Concerned you’re losing your own? You worry that you’ll make people uncomfortable if you bring it up. Concerned someone else is losing theirs? You worry that you’re going to offend them.

Although it’s difficult, having these conversations is the best thing you can do. It’s important to put plans in place to prepare. In this blog we’ll discuss how you can approach this sensitive situation and take a look at the steps you can put in place to protect your loved ones – like setting up an LPA.

A mother and a daughter sat on a sofa in a light living room, facing one another. Both are holding cups of tea. They're having a conversation.

What is an LPA?

If you’re worried that you, or someone you care about, may have issues with the loss of mental capacity then I’d recommend doing some research into LPAs. I’ll give you a quick overview now, but if you’d like more information feel free to get in touch and we’ll be able to talk you through it in more detail.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a document that allows someone (known as the donor) to nominate people (known as attorneys) to manage their affairs if they lose the capacity to make decisions themselves.

They allow you to plan ahead. You and your loved ones can sit down and discuss the situation. You can come up with an agreement on what you’d like to happen and how the affairs should be managed. You can even come up with a set of guidelines to be followed if capacity is lost. The attorneys will know their responsibilities and the donor will get peace of mind that their wishes will be carried out no matter what.

If mental capacity is lost and there is no LPA in place the only option is to apply for something called deputyship. On paper a deputyship is basically the same as an LPA – it works in the same way. It allows someone else the power to manage your affairs if you’re unable to manage them yourself.

A deputyship, though, should be your absolute last resort. They take months longer to set up and they’re significantly more expensive than LPAs. An application for one costs at least £371, and there’s a supervision fee of £325 to be paid every year. To put that into perspective, an LPA at Vital Documents costs £150 (plus an £82 registration fee) as a one-off payment. There are no annual fees with an LPA.

But forget about the financial aspect for a moment. A deputyship can only be applied for once mental capacity is lost. That means that the person who’s lost capacity can have no direct say over the choices made on their behalf. Those with deputyship can guess and make assumptions, but… they’re just guesses and assumptions. There’s no guarantee that that’s what the person would want.

Prevention is always better than the cure. Planning for the future can save you so much trouble and expense. That’s why, even though it’s difficult, it’s so important to open the discourse and have a conversation.

Two people sat at a table having a conversation. They're talking about the loss of mental capacity.

Tips for starting a conversation around loss of mental capacity

I’ll let you in on a secret – I’m a classic overthinker. Fully. I conjure up the worst possible scenarios in my head and I convince myself that they’re going to happen. I’ve spent days putting things off because I’m scared it’s going to go badly. I’m my own worst enemy.

Never once have my fears been justified. Ever. Whenever I’ve finally bitten the bullet and forced myself to speak, it’s been absolutely fine. The person I’ve been talking to has been understanding and respectful, and we’ve had a constructive conversation that’s put my mind at rest. I leave the conversation feeling relieved (and a bit embarrassed that I spent so much time worrying).

Point is, these conversations very rarely go as badly you expect, so try not to worry. You’re coming from a place of love and you’re doing it with the best intentions. For all you know, your loved one might already share your worries. Let’s take a look at some ways you might want to approach it and open the conversation.

Be gentle

Don’t just blurt it out. Ease yourself into the topic. Make sure they’re comfortable and gently bring up your concern. If you’re worried you might get flustered and forget some things when you’re talking, it might help to have some resources handy to refer to.

Listen

Don’t forget you’re having a conversation, not giving a sales pitch. Just explain your concerns and go from there. See how it goes and respect their feelings. They’re bound to have doubts or questions.

If they close off or pretty obviously don’t want to talk about it, don’t push them. That’s not going to help anyone. Change the subject and be happy that you had the courage to bring it up. You never know – you’ve put the seed in their head. Given time to process and think about it. They might realise that they agree with you.

Three elderly people sat in a living room having a discussion. For loss of mental capacity blog.

The sooner the better

It’s a hard conversation to have but you need to have it. The earlier you can open the discourse the better. It gives everyone more time to consider, make informed decisions and come to terms with everything. Putting it off doesn’t help anyone. You want to avoid deputyship if you can. Don’t leave it too late.

Just remember – you’re doing what’s for the best.

If you need any help or advice about LPAs, feel free to get in touch with us. You can give us a ring on +44 (0)330 229 0331 or drop us an email on hello@vitaldocuments.co.uk. As specialists, we can talk you through exactly how they work and how they could be of benefit to you and your loved ones. We can support you through the process.

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Declan Ramsden
Declan Ramsden

Declan is a Content Creator at Vital Documents! He studied English Literature for 4 years before joining the company. Outside of work, he enjoys listening to retro music and reading classic novels – particularly Charles Dickens!

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