Battling with dementia: A family’s fight

About this article:
  • Understand the considerations involved in caring for a loved one with dementia through Joseph’s experience.
  • Learn how not having a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) meant Joseph and his brother could not access to the lump-sum payout assured under their mother’s critical illness plan.
  • Understand the value of having adequate insurance coverage to tide you and your loved ones over difficult times.

This story highlights the struggle of Joseph and his elder brother from the point that their mother was diagnosed with dementia 8 years ago.

They were especially caught in a bind when their mother developed late-stage dementia and they were denied access to the lump-sum payout that was assured from her critical illness insurance plan.

The reason? They needed a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to retrieve her payout on her behalf given she was mentally unfit to do so herself.

His family’s struggle is not an uncommon one, but one that is certainly preventable. 

Read on to understand more about LPA, and how it can help you navigate a health crisis with clarity so you can focus on what matters most the wellbeing of your loved one.

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?

Lasting Power of Attorney
Lasting Power of Attorney

Many of us know that health insurance can protect us from dipping into our savings in the event of illness. That is why we purchase a plan for ourselves and our loved ones so that we can get get speedy and quality healthcare, instead of worrying about how to pay for medical bills.

But few of us go a step further to get an LPA.

What exactly is an LPA? 

It is a legal document that empowers your loved ones to designate a trusted individual (known as a donee) to make decisions on their behalf if they become mentally incapacitated. This could be due to dementia, a severe illness, or an accident.

Without an LPA, should your loved one (also the health insurance policyholder) develop a condition that leaves them mentally incapacitated, their family members cannot make insurance claims on their behalf, or receive insurance payouts.

And, Joseph and his family found themselves in this exact situation a few years ago.

Key Benefits about Lasting Power of Attorney An LPA offers several advantages for family members and loved ones.
  • It’s cost-effective—the process of appointing a donee through an LPA is significantly less expensive than going through the court to have a deputy appointed.
  • Your designated donee can also make critical decisions on your behalf without delays associated with the court system.
  • Knowing your financial affairs and well-being are in the hands of a trusted individual also provides immense peace of mind for you and your loved ones during a challenging time.

The Hidden Costs of Caring for a Loved One with Dementia

Caring for Dementia
Caring for Dementia

Joseph’s mother battled dementia for seven years before she passed away.

While Joseph’s mother had a critical illness plan, it did not cover early-stage dementia, which Joseph and his brother discovered after they tried to access the lump-sum payout for her condition.

Knowing More About Dementia:

Dementia is a progressive neurological disorder that affects a growing number of Singapore residents. As the disease progresses, individuals may lose the ability to manage their finances, make healthcare decisions, or handle legal matters.

According to the Alzheimer’s Disease Association Singapore (ADAS), an estimated 82,000 people in Singapore are living with dementia, with numbers projected to go beyond 100,000 by 2030.

Caring for their mum with her condition was certainly something they did without complaints, but as time passed, it became riskier to leave her unattended at any time. They hired a helper to take care of mum, made other living adjustments, and took her for her appointments to check in on her condition.

Over time, the costs of caring for her began to mount, and at the same time, there was uncertainty about how long the condition would stretch out.

The siblings felt having a pool of money to draw from to support their mum’s increasing caregiving needs would offer them peace of mind, but that was not something they could depend on at the time.

"Blindsided" by the Terms of His Mother's Critical Illness Plan

Caregiver and caring for Dementia
Caregiver and caring for Dementia

5 years after her initial diagnosis, Joseph’s mum’s condition had progressed and she was diagnosed with late-stage dementia. For the second time, Joseph and his elder brother applied for the lump-sum payout for dementia from her insurer.

However, the claim was denied as their mum was mentally incapacitated and would not be in control of how the lump-sum money would be spent.

The insurer’s reply also stated that since their mum did not have an LPA, Joseph and his elder brother needed to obtain a court order to assign a deputy to act on her behalf in order to access the insurance payout.

Joseph and His Family Begin Applying for an LPA

And so the court process began, but it didn’t come without complexities and additional expenses. Not to mention how long it took to get the LPA it took 8 months; time that could have been better spent had they arranged for an LPA before his mum’s diagnosis. 

We ended up spending $7,000 SGD for a lawyer so that we can lawfully decide for her. The entire process was really tedious.

Finally, a Ray of Hope

After 8 months, the court granted both siblings as deputies to manage their mom’s assets, and the insurer agreed to release the payout. The payout offered the family a huge sense of relief, after years of struggling without any end in sight.

Looking back, Joseph recalls that the decision to release the payout offered a huge financial help, but it came at a price time, worry, and money.

Had we known this before her diagnosis, I would have liked to get her to assign us as the lasting power attorney. This way things can be easier because you would never know what’s coming

Nevertheless, Joseph was still glad that he and his sibling had bought a critical illness plan for their mother. 

The payout from her critical illness plan helped to recover the expenses made for caring for his mum over the years, even though the process of utilising it was a painful one.

The Importance of Tying Up Loose Ends

Signing LPA and other documents
Signing LPA and other documents

Joseph’s story is a story that hits close to home for many of us. It’s a story of how things can change in an instant and change the trajectory of yours and your loved ones’ lives.

And it’s also a story about the saying “You don’t know what you don’t know.” We may put in our best efforts to prepare for unforeseen events, but sometimes, it may just not be enough because of critical information we didn’t manage to factor in.

Hopefully, this article raises our awareness about the importance of getting an LPA early and tying up this loose end in yours and your loved ones’ insurance coverage.

Understand Your Coverage, Always

Alongside an LPA, it’s also important to understand the exact terms of your insurance plans. Critical illness plans often have varying coverage stages, with some offering payouts only at advanced stages of the illness.

Make it a point to check through the terms of the insurance plans you have bought or are about to buy, take notes and ask your financial adviser questions.

This will encourage you to be aware, maximise your coverage or seek alternative ways to fill in the gaps in your existing coverage if you have already bought a plan.

Above all, staying in the know helps you and your loved ones go through various challenges in life with confidence and peace of mind.

Thinking about getting a critical illness plan or an LPA? Discover more about health insurance policies here.

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