Health and Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney
There are currently over 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and the Alzheimer’s Society expects this number to top 1 million by 2025. With symptoms including memory loss and problems communicating, a survey commissioned by The Live-In Homecare Information Hub suggests dementia is now the most feared illnesses for those aged 55 and over.
At a time when families are often struggling with coming to terms with changes in a loved one’s behaviour due to a dementia diagnosis, they can often come across legal challenges which can make matters even more stressful.
In order to ensure that someone is legally appointed to look after your affairs and to make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to make them yourself, you can appoint an Attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney. There are two different types of Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), one for your property and financial affairs and one for your health and welfare matters.
Most people may have heard of the need for an LPA for your financial affairs so that your Attorney can access your bank account should you be unable to manage your own affairs but many do not consider a health and welfare LPA to be so important.
Recently we are seeing an increasing need for health and welfare LPAs as they are now often requested by medical professionals and even Social Services. If you do not have a registered LPA for health and welfare matters you do not have anyone who has legal authority to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them yourself. This could include a decision about where you live, which care home is best for you and decisions in relation to life sustaining treatment.
What if there is no Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney?
Mr Jones was an elderly gentleman who lived at home on his own. His family would often come to visit him and help him with day to day chores. After suffering a stroke and spending some time in hospital, Mr Jones’ family decided that it would not be suitable for him to return home on his own due to the deterioration in his health and the need for someone to be at home with him full time. However, Social Services assessed Mr Jones as being able to return home on his own with a carer visiting twice a day to help Mr Jones get up in the morning, go to bed in the evening and to prepare meals for him. The family did not feel that this was sufficient and felt that it was in Mr Jones’ best interest to be in full time residential care where there would be support for him around the clock.
Unfortunately, because Mr Jones did not make a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare matters appointing someone he trusted to act in his best interests, the family were not able to make the final decision about where Mr Jones lives. This had led to a lengthy and expensive application being made to the Court of Protection to request that a family member is appointed as a Deputy to act on behalf of Mr Jones.
Ensure that decisions are not taken out of your hands and consider making Lasting Powers of Attorney.