Latimer Hinks Solicitors in Darlington has called for all professional sectors to have procedures in place to support people living with dementia, particularly those who operate within rural areas.
The firm, which has a specialist agricultural department, has observed that ‘rural dementia’ has become more prevalent in recent years, due to the ageing population.
In order to address this, one of its directors, Natalie Palmer, has trained with the Alzheimer’s Society to become a dementia friends champion, and has trained others within Latimer Hinks to be able to support clients with dementia, or their carers.
Natalie said: “There are more than three million dementia friends in the UK, and it’s our goal to change people’s perception of dementia by transforming the way people think, act and talk about the condition. It can be incredibly frightening for those living with dementia and we want people to feel more comfortable when they come to see us.
“I work with a number of older clients and am a trustee for Age UK, North Yorkshire and Darlington, so I’m very conscious of the effect dementia has on those living with the condition and their families. I want to make sure that we can make the legal side of their lives as easy as possible.”
A recent study by Plymouth University found that people with dementia and Alzheimer’s who live on farms can be especially vulnerable due to hazards including machinery, livestock and the stress of managing a farm, as well as a reluctance to ask for help from friends and family, which can lead to loneliness and isolation.
The study found that dementia can be a particular issue in the farming community, as farm owners tend to work beyond retirement age, and the condition is more prevalent in older people. This can lead to problems if the condition worsens to a point that the person can’t run the business and hasn’t prepared for someone to take it over in the future.
Natalie continued: “We support people living with dementia in a number of ways, including home visits to make appointments less stressful, and help clients arrange their affairs including signing lasting power of attorneys for family members to manage their affairs on their behalf.
“If you work in professional services, I believe you have a duty to ensure all your clients can access your services, and I’m delighted to be part of a team that is working hard to support people with dementia including those living in rural areas.”
Anne Elliott, CEO of Latimer Hinks, added: “Planning needs to be tackled before dementia becomes an issue. People often don’t realise that succession planning usually takes months/years to agree and implement and this is particularly so in the farming sector. Arrangements can often be complex, so we aim to support the transition at a time when individuals have the essential mental capacity and plenty of time to make decisions, reach agreement and put the plans in place.
“By suggesting and discussing options with clients and their families at an early stage, we can give them peace of mind so that they know their farm and business will be in safe hands when they reach a time when they may no longer be able to run it. Having the future of the business discussed and agreed in good time gives both generations – the outgoing and the succeeding – certainty and peace of mind so that they can focus ont eh day-to-day running of the operation."
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