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Press Release: A Friendly Approach to Dementia Minimises Distress

A diagnosis of dementia can be distressing for any family, but failing to plan for that possibility will only add to the strain warns Kearney Coffin, a trainee solicitor working in the Wills and Probate Department of Curtis Whiteford Crocker solicitors in Plymouth.

“People are very familiar with wills and the need to plan for them, but wills only come into effect when that person has passed away. The only person who can look after your legal affairs is you, unless there’s a power of attorney in place. You need to deal with these matters before there’s a diagnosis of dementia.”
Kearney Coffin

Nobody wants to think about death or dying, but it’s important to make sure that people decide what they want to happen while they are still able to do so.
At the moment there are over 3,000 people living with a diagnosis of dementia in Plymouth alone, a situation that will only get worse with an ageing population. But the good news is that the city is working hard to tackle the issue, work that has won national recognition and global attention.

The Plymouth Dementia Action Alliance is made up of representatives of Plymouth City Council and Plymouth University and around 60 organisations from a wide variety of sectors across the city including healthcare, emergency services, transport, education, defence, legal services, charities, faith groups, retail, finance and leisure sectors.
They have developed initiatives to help provide a more dementia friendly approach in the city. At an awards ceremony earlier this month the Alzheimer’s Society named Plymouth Dementia Friendly City of the Year.

It follows a visit to Plymouth from a group of journalists from Japan, who were keen to learn how Plymouth is implementing a dementia friendly approach. The University and City College have been commissioned to support medical students and staff in China on issues around dementia care.

Kearney says all organisations can get involved. She is a dementia champion and has helped Curtis Whiteford Crocker become more dementia friendly.
“It’s about promoting understanding and appreciating how dementia can affect people and their carers. It’s about clear and simple communication and how we deal with the client,” she says. “It’s also about things like making sure there is clear signage in the buildings. It sounds so obvious but the office environment can be very confusing for someone with dementia.
“We’re also happy to visit people in their own homes, hospital or care home, which is less intimidating.
“Dementia sufferers have a fluctuating capacity, which is one of the biggest problems. Sometimes it’s something as simple as seeing them at the right time of the day.

“This is such a growing area of the law, particularly concerning Lasting Power of Attorney. We make sure every client is aware of it. You really have to look at it like you would an insurance policy. You hope you’re not going to need it.
“Of course this can be very difficult and stressful,” admits Kearney, “and more so for family and relatives who carry most of the burden. Some people are funny talking about death, but you need people to know what you want.”

The dementia situation is only going to get worse with the ageing population and the rising cost of care contributing factors.
“There aren’t so many traditional family structures and there are a lot of second marriages,” adds Kearney. “Families are getting more complex. Where people years ago would have gone into a family home, they’re now going into care.
“We need to remove the stigma about dementia and have an understanding of what it is and how it works. I’d like other companies and organisations to get involved. We need to remove that element of fear.”

Kearney Coffin is a trainee solicitor in the Wills and Probate department of Curtis Whiteford Crocker which has offices in Plymouth, Tavistock and Torpoint.

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