Deputy powers: Extend legal help to seniors with dementia

I was delighted to read that help is being offered to parents with special needs children to apply for deputy powers ("Just $250 to seek deputy powers / Deputy powers: Law students help to fill in forms"; Aug 10).

I hope this assistance can be extended to the low-income elderly who are diagnosed with dementia and who lack the capacity to make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf.

Working as a senior counsellor in the social service field serving mainly elderly clients, I have seen too many elderly folk suffering from dementia who need access to their money in their Central Provident Fund and bank accounts, or wish to sell their flats, but are unable to do so owing to the loss of mental capacity.

I encourage my clients and their families to make an LPA. However, as the Mental Capacity Act came into place only in 2008, many seniors with dementia did not have the opportunity to make an LPA before they lost their mental capacity.

Families can spend more than $10,000 in a long-drawn process of appointing deputyship for their elderly loved ones with dementia.

Needless to say, those from the low-income group cannot afford such high legal fees, yet they are the ones who will benefit most from having access to their money.

The process of applying for an LPA has been streamlined and made easier. It is also prudent to make the application for deputy powers just as easy for families.

Hence, I urge the Ministry of Social and Family Development to extend this pilot project to caregivers of seniors with dementia as soon as possible.

I applaud the ministry for getting undergraduate law students involved in the project.

This will help law students work with people with special needs and their caregivers, hence preparing them to become more compassionate and to support social justice as they become full-fledged lawyers.

Chew Yat Peng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'Deputy powers: Extend legal help to seniors with dementia'. Print Edition | Subscribe