News

26

Jul

The Incapacity Crisis: A Nation Unprepared

Time for Choice, not Chance

We mainly go along throughout our lives thinking of the present and leaving the future to look after itself, but with a little forward planning now you can put in place the systems you need to look after yourself if the worst comes to the worst. 

Solicitors for the Elderly and the Centre for Future Studies have produced a new report voicing their concerns about the population's lack of preparedness, and found that:

• 97% of people in the East of England leave important health and welfare decisions to chance
• 70% would like a family member to make medical and care decisions on their behalf, in the event of mental incapacity
• 73% of people in the East of England are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves
• 77% haven’t discussed end of life medical and care wishes
• 36% admit to having made no provisions at all, such as a will, LPA, pension or funeral plan

The study found 97% of people in the East of England have not made necessary provisions, should they lose capacity from conditions like dementia.

A further 36% admit to having made no provisions at all for later life, including a will, pension, funeral plan or Lasting Power of Attornery (LPA).

The research found that 73% of people in the East of England are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves, but 77% have not spoken about, or even considered, personal medical and care end of life decisions.

A staggering 62% of people incorrectly believe that their next of kin can specify what they would have wanted if they were no longer able to act for themselves, and 70% of the public would like a family member to make medical and care decisions on their behalf.

59% of people incorrectly believe that their spouse has the power to do so.

74% of those in the East of England are worried about becoming mentally incapacitated and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves.

62% believe that being on the NHS organ donor register ensures that organs are donated following death, however this is not the case.

Less than 3% of Britons surveyed in the East of England by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE - an independent, national organisation of over 1,600 lawyers, such as solicitors, barristers, and chartered legal executives, who provide specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people, their families and carers) have a health and welfare LPA in place.

A new report from SFE and the independent think tank Centre for Future Studies reveals the UK is leaving medical and care preferences to chance. The report looks at the ever-increasing number of people living with dementia which, combined with the failure to plan ahead for mental incapacity, exposes a looming crisis. And although these statistics focus on the East of England they are likely to be replicated across the whole of the UK.

What steps can we take to avert this looming crisis?

In response, a coalition of organisations, led by SFE are joining forces to encourage people to tackle the taboos around end of life planning, in order to prevent an incapacity crisis.

Planning ahead is surrounded by worrying misconceptions, especially in relation to health and care preferences.

Without the necessary provisions in place, potential life-changing medical and care decisions are taken away from loved ones.

There are currently 928,000  Health and Welfare LPAs registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) across England and Wales, compared to the 12.8 million people over the age of 65 who run the risk of developing dementia – a difference of nearly 93%.

The forecast shows the disparity will continue, leaving millions in limbo. By 2025, it’s calculated that 15.2 million people will be at risk of mental incapacity and it’s estimated that only 2.2 million health and welfare LPAs will be in place. This shows that the health and welfare wishes of 13 million people will not be taken into account when they need care most.

SFE is urging the nation to act now to avoid this incapacity crisis by planning ahead in case of mental incapacity.

It is crucial to have a conversation with loved ones in order to make specific medical and care wishes known – such as 

  • where you are cared for,
  • whether you wish to be an organ donor and
  • whether or not you would want to be resuscitated

– otherwise there is a risk your preferences are not taken into account.

The campaign calls on people to act now and start a conversation with loved ones about end of life topics to remove the stigma surrounding the discussion.

What the experts say:

Lakshmi Turner, Chief Executive of SFE, said:

“Most of us do not like thinking about, let alone talking about, death, disability or disease, despite the fact that it touches all our lives – but it is essential that we do so.

“Whilst it’s great that more and more of us are putting wills in place and establishing plans for finances and assets, far too few of us are planning ahead for our health and care needs and wishes, leaving this to chance.

“It’s time to set the record straight. Planning ahead by talking to family or friends shouldn’t be seen as doom and gloom, it’s about having a positive conversation about welfare, empowering your loved ones and making the decision-making process easier for everyone.”

Professor Ilora, the Baroness Finlay, states:

“With decades of experience working and campaigning around palliative medicine, the low numbers of health and welfare lasting power of attorneys is of concern.

“When a person loses capacity to take decisions, it is sad to see families and professionals struggling to try to determine what a person would have wanted. Delays and distress can be avoided by appointing someone to speak for you when you can no longer speak up for yourself.

“Discussing medical and care wishes ahead of time ensures that care can respect an individual’s wishes, with the respect they deserve – even when it comes to fulfilling wishes after death, such as organ donation.

“It’s important to have an open discussion about future illnesses and possible incapacity. I urge the millions of people who haven’t given loved ones the opportunity to listen, to act now.”

Jeremy Hughes CBE, Chief Executive of Alzheimer's Society

“We welcome this initiative. Lasting powers of attorney for health and welfare too often get overlooked.

“People with dementia have the right to make choices about their care, just like anyone else. Making someone they trust their attorney for health and welfare is one of the ways people can do this. A health and welfare LPA provides reassurance to them and the act of creating one can start useful conversations about the future with family and friends.”

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?

An LPA is a powerful legal document, which allows a person (or ‘donor’) to choose one or more individuals (known as attorneys) to handle their affairs in the event that they are no longer able to do so themselves, for example if they lose mental capacity. Attorneys are usually trusted family members or friends, but people can also select a legal professional as their attorney.

When can I make an LPA?

An LPA must be put in place while a person has the mental capacity to do so.

It’s important to plan ahead and get your wishes down on paper as early as possible to ensure that whoever you choose to manage your affairs can retain control, should you lose capacity.

The different sorts of LPA

There are two types of LPA: a health and welfare LPA (H&W LPA), and a property and financial affairs LPA (P&F LPA). The former covers things like choices around care plans, medical treatment and end of life wishes. The latter deals with the management of property, other assets, bank accounts and bill payments.

How can Cunningtons help?

At Cunningtons we have a team able to assist you and advise you in respect of Lasting Powers of Attorney.

Bryony Wilmshurst who heads the team is a full member of Solicitors for the Elderly and advises that putting plans in place for the future need not be daunting or stressful and is not something that should be put off until a later date.

At Cunningtons we always take in to account the individual needs of our clients and are able to tailor our service to meet their needs.

Please do not hesitate to contact us on 01376 567280 if you wish to discuss Lasting Powers of Attorney.

LPAs - caring for your future LPAs - caring for your future

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