Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) has launched its latest media campaign to raise awareness of the importance of the Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney. The campaign's focus is to equip families ahead of the 'incapacity crisis' by encouraging the conversation between loved ones about personal medical and care decisions, as well as end of life care. The SFE has published a new report titled The Incapacity Crisis: Making sure your wishes are heard to further highlight the campaign. According to the SFE research a staggering 70% of Brits would want their family to make their medical and care decisions on their behalf if they were unable to make them themselves, yet 79% of Brits haven't discussed their medical or care wishes or later life with their loved ones.
As planning for later life professionals, we are keen to highlight the importance of getting your legal documents in place for peace of mind. The SFE campaign is one that we whole heartily support, if you were in an accident and unable to make decisions for yourself, would your family/friends/medical professionals make the same decisions you would about your treatment or care?
The 2016 case of Paul Briggs is a heart-wrenching example highlighting the significance of making sure your wishes and feelings are formally recorded before it becomes too late. Sadly, Paul Briggs, was involved in a traffic incident which has left him unconscious and in a permanent vegetative state. As this was an unexpected event, Paul hadn't got the necessary documents in place and in his current circumstances Paul is unable to make decisions himself or communicate his wishes and feelings. This has meant the family have had to make an application to the Court to challenge the doctor's decisions to keep Paul on life support.
If you state your wishes, values and feelings, it then makes it easier for the right choices to be made. There are legal documents that set out your wishes should you be in a position that you are unable make the decision for yourself, these are known as Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA).
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a document which gives someone the authority to act on your behalf when it comes to important decisions.
There are two types of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs):-
- Property and Financial Affairs
This document gives your attorney the authority to deal with your property, bank accounts, investments, utility companies and any other finances. This document can be used as soon as it has been registered and regardless of whether you have lost capacity. Your attorney can make decisions on your behalf, provided the decision is in your best interests, for example deciding to sell your property to pay for care fees or change where an investment is held to ensure a higher return.
- Health and Welfare
This document gives your attorney the authority to make decisions regarding your day-to-day medical and care needs, your care/residential home and life sustaining treatment. This document can only be used once you have lost capacity so if you have not made an LPA by this point, these decisions will be left to the medical professional involved in your care. This is often a point of contention as your family/friends may have differing opinions to the professionals when it comes to these decisions.
Why is a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) important?
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) act as an insurance policy in a way – you hope you will never need to use them, but they are there just in case and so provide peace of mind that your wishes will be taken into consideration when you are unable to make certain decisions.
A Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is especially important as you never know what is round the corner, and whilst many of us do not anticipate being in a life-changing accident, it can happen. For example in the last decade the proportion of first-time strokes suffered by 40 to 69-year-olds rose from 33% to 38%. It is also becoming increasingly common to read shocking stories in the news of underlying medical conditions which have come to fruition and left the person incapacitated.
It is really important to talk to the person you want to make important decisions on your behalf should you lose capacity, you need to let them know what you would like to happen when it comes to key decisions.
Reasons to plan for incapacity
- Control over your day-to-day healthcare
You can be as detailed as you like in your Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This means you can leave specific instructions or preferences for your day-to-day care for your attorney to follow. These can include details on who you would like to have contact with, the medication you are happy to have administered and your day-to-day activities.
- Managing your care
Your Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) can also include instructions for how long you wish to stay in your own home before moving to residential care and the premise for doing so. It can provide details on the location of the care home or that you would like to live close to friends or family.
- Life-sustaining treatment
You can give authority to your attorney to refuse consent to life-sustaining treatment on your behalf, or you can choose not to give them this authority in which case medical professionals will make such decisions. As there is a specific section on the document in relation to this it is very clear what you intended at the time of making the document and as such can be easily followed.
It's never too soon to have these conversations with loved ones, and you are never too young to put a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney in place but it can be too late.
At Clapham & Collinge we have a team of expert lawyers who provide advice and assistance in the preparation of your Lasting Powers of Attorney to make sure they are right for you and reflect your wishes. We also register the documents as soon as they are prepared to ensure that they can be used straight away if needed.
To find out more or to discuss your individual requirements in further detail, our dedicated Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors are on hand to help. Contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham and Sheringham offices.