For someone with dementia, there comes a time when they will need another person to take over making decisions about essential matters, such as health and finances. Many people will put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place in advance of this happening. However, where this has not been done it’s possible to take over the legal responsibility for decisions by becoming a Deputy.
How do you become a Deputy?
Applications to become a Deputy are made via the Court of Protection. Deputies must be at least 18 years old and be willing to take on the title. Usually, a Deputy is a friend or relative of the person with dementia but may also be a solicitor or court appointed professional. People who have a conflict of interest cannot be a Deputy – for example a care worker who is paid to look after the individual with dementia.
Types of Deputyship
There are two types of Deputyship:
A property and affairs Deputyship – this will enable the Deputy to make financial decisions on behalf of the other person. The process of applying for this type of Deputyship involves signing a declaration that the Deputy has the skills, knowledge and commitment to carry out the decisions relating to property and financial affairs. An applicant who has been bankrupt or has financial difficulties is unlikely to be appointed.
Personal welfare Deputyship – this is a more unusual type of appointment. It concerns decisions that relate to an individual’s care and treatment. It is more unusual as the courts will only appoint a Deputy under these circumstances if no other decision can be reached in the individual’s best interests.
The duties of a Deputy
Becoming a Deputy for someone with dementia is an ongoing task. It’s important for anyone considering doing it to be sure that they will be able to commit to the position for as long as is necessary. Some of the specific responsibilities of deputies include:
- A duty not to take advantage of the person with dementia
- A duty to act with proper care and skill
- A duty to act in good faith
- A duty to ensure duties are not neglected
- A duty to respect the confidentiality of the person you are a Deputy for
Some duties relate to the specific type of Deputyship – for example if you are a property and affairs Deputy you must keep accounts. There are also some very specific limits to a Deputy’s powers, for example, there is no authority to restrain the person with dementia, or to take a decision for that person if they have the capacity to do so.
Acting as a Deputy for someone with dementia can ensure that their affairs remain in order even in difficult circumstances. However, it’s a responsibility that requires preparation and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.