Kiwi are underprepared for growing dementia rate, says Public Trust
Media release September 2023
Once a person is diagnosed with dementia, life changes quickly. The person with dementia may start having trouble looking after their wellbeing, their property and their finances, and need help with these tasks.
Fast forward, and they may be able to complete these tasks to varying degrees of success – or not manage them at all on their own.
The number of New Zealanders living with dementia is expected to almost triple to 170,000 by 2050*.
This World Alzheimer’s Month, Public Trust is calling on Kiwi to start the conversation with their loved ones about who might look after their financial affairs and wellbeing in the event of a dementia diagnosis, and to get their enduring powers of attorney (EPAs) sorted.
“Having the right documents such as EPAs in place is just as important as ensuring a person’s physical health is taken care of as they are part of providing the best possible care for the person who has been diagnosed,” says Public Trust CEO Glenys Talivai.
EPAs are legal documents that help ensure your wellbeing, property and finances will be taken care of by people or organisations you trust, should you lose mental capacity and become unable to manage these things yourself.
Talivai says that while the conversations that are needed as part of the set-up process can be difficult, we should be treating them as part of our duty of care to our whānau and friends.
“It can be confronting to discuss what happens in the event of a serious accident or illness, but having these conversations with your loved ones before they are needed benefits everyone. Having EPAs in place makes the process so much easier for everyone should the time come when you need them,” she says.
With about 17% of Kiwi having EPAs in place, and only 38% of over 65s, there is a pressing need for greater awareness and education about why they are so important – and that they can only be created when a person has mental capacity.
“That’s why we’re on a mission to significantly boost the number of Kiwi with EPAs in place,” Talivai says.
These important legal documents not only help protect the individual with dementia, they also give the person caring for them the reassurance that they are acting according to the individual’s wishes, Talivai says.
This can be comforting to loved ones and those helping care for the person with dementia, she says.
Thursday 21 September is World Alzheimer’s Day as well – a key date and a good reminder to ask yourself and your whānau whether you have the right documents in place should serious illness or an accident happen and you become mentally incapable.
*Statistics source: Alzheimer’s New Zealand, August 2023
What are EPAs and who should have them?
• Having your EPAs in place can make it easier for your wellbeing, property, and finances to be taken care of if you lose mental capacity and are unable to manage these things yourself.
• We encourage everyone over 18 to have EPAs in place.
• There are two types of EPAs, one for your personal care and welfare and one for your property and finances. Having your EPAs in place means a trusted person or a trustee corporation such as Public Trust can step in and manage your property and finances, or make decisions about your care, if you lose mental capacity and are no longer able to make those decisions yourself. A property EPA can also be set up to apply immediately - that way, someone can manage things for you if you decide you no longer want to.
• If you no longer have the mental capacity to make decisions in relation to your property, finances or wellbeing and you don’t have EPAs in place, your loved ones will need to apply to the Family Court to have the right to make these decisions on your behalf. This can be expensive, take time, and be stressful for loved ones. Many people think their spouse, partner or next of kin automatically have this right, but it isn’t always the case.
All information, content, and materials referred to, in this document are for general informational purposes only. Information in this document is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. You should not act in reliance on the content of this document without first obtaining professional advice relevant to your particular circumstances. While Public Trust has made every effort to ensure that the content of this document is up to date and error-free, Public Trust does not give any guarantee or other assurance as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or fitness for any particular purpose of the content.