Act Now, Lasting Powers of Attorney
The lawyers organisation Solicitors for the Elderly has recently published a report warning that the UK is heading for an incapacity crisis, with a widening gap between the rising number of people likely to lose capacity and the relatively small number who have arranged a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
The report states that the number of people with dementia in the UK increased by more than 50% in the last 11 years, now standing at 540,000. There are obviously also a number of undiagnosed cases. The report also notes that of the 12.8 million British residents over the age of 65, one in 14 will develop dementia. The concerns they have raised are not to do with the financial affairs of these individuals, but concern their future care arrangements. The number of Health & Welfare LPAs registered at the Office of the Public Guardian is relatively low compared to the number of Property & Financial LPAs and much lower than the number of people who are potentially affected.
A Health & Welfare LPA appoints chosen individuals, to make any health and welfare decisions on your behalf. This document would only be used if you did not have the mental capacity to deal with these decisions yourself. This is in contrast to the Property & Financial LPA which can be used, if you wish even if you do have capacity. The Health & Welfare LPA includes a general authority for the Attorneys, but also a specific authority as to whether they can make decisions on life-sustaining treatment on your behalf. So this document covers a variety of situations where decisions may be needed on where you live and how you are cared for, as well as end of life care. This document now has increased importance because a Supreme court ruling in July 2018 has held that judges will no longer need to be consulted when doctors and relatives agree over the withdrawal of life-sustaining food and water. It will be very important for you to specify which relatives can be involved in this decision, by appointing them in a Health and Welfare LPA.
Both types of LPA are invaluable and should be thought of as an insurance policy for the future. You may never develop dementia, but that does not mean that there may not be a time in the future when you would prefer someone else to help with your finances, or that you will not have a condition which means that other people need to be involved in decisions about your care. It would obviously be better if you had already put a system in place whereby people you trust had already been legally appointed. The alternative is that your family, doctors or Social Services would need to make an application to Court, an expensive and time-consuming process
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