Consumers share legal experience in new resource to help others

When Dr Glenda Parkin was diagnosed with younger onset dementia and left work as a private school principal, it meant both dealing with the diagnosis and learning to navigate the often complex employment, superannuation and other legal systems.

Glenda and her husband Bronte had their Wills sorted and Enduring Power of Attorney appointed already before Glenda’s diagnosis, but with Bronte’s help Glenda was able to negotiate with the trustees of her superannuation fund, access her superannuation and cease working.

Glenda and Bronte Parkin

Drawing on their experiences, Glenda and Bronte were involved in the new Dementia and Your Legal Rights resource, with consumers and legal experts.

Dementia and Your Legal Rights provides practical information for people with dementia and their families and carers on:

  • What mental capacity means, and how it applies to decision-making;
  • Legal rights and decision-making with regard to finances;
  • Legal rights and decision-making with regard to health care and personal matters; and
  • Legal rights and responsibilities around employment and superannuation; criminal responsibility; voting, driving; travel; and Wills.

Bronte said the topics covered were important for everyone, irrespective of a diagnosis of dementia.

“It is a very good resource and all families generally should be on top of those issues,” Bronte said.

“In our experience there were, and still are, several gaps in legal matters in relation to dementia.

“It has been very useful to identify the areas we and others have had difficulty with so that further information and advice is now available on these important areas that are part of everyday life, including employment rights, access to superannuation and insurance, driving and travel,” he said.

Bronte and Glenda launched Dementia and Your Legal Rights at the National Consumer Summit held at Parliament House in March. Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP was at the launch.

“When we lose our mental capacity, then some of our decisions can be questioned as to whether we fully understood what we were asking to be done and it’s easy to challenge some of that thinking,” Mr Wyatt said.

“This document is a framework for families to sit down with somebody who is living with dementia, or entering the early stages and gently work through what is their wish as opposed to what the family wish might be.” 

Dementia and Your Legal Rights is a consumer driven initiative, developed by Adjunct Fellow in Elder Law, Ms Sue Field and Professor Colleen Cartwright with guidance from the Dementia Australia’s consumer advisory groups, comprising of people living with dementia and carers.

Dementia Australia CEO Carol Bennett said it was important consumers were able to participate in the development of Dementia and Your Legal Rights with the legal experts.

“It is fantastic to have consumer involvement in the development of resources such as Dementia and Your Legal Rights because it really ensures they are relevant to the needs of people living with dementia, their carers and families and reflect the consumer experience,” Ms Bennett said.

Bronte said he was surprised at the protections in employment law that are available to people and yet anecdotally he had heard of some people who had been dismissed almost as soon as their diagnosis was made known to their employer.

“It’s important to know your rights around employment contracts, disability discrimination law and industrial law and more so for people who are diagnosed with younger onset dementia whilst they were still working and may be capable of continuing their employment for much longer than first thought,” he said. 

Bronte would like to see Dementia Australia develop a financial planning resource for people diagnosed with dementia and their families as a next step.

Dementia and Your Legal Rights is available for download or you can obtain a copy by phoning the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.