Towards the end of life, or as we become more frail, we may become unable to make decisions for ourselves about our Health & Welfare. A recent survey found that a lot of people have misconceptions about what will happen in that situation.
67% of people incorrectly believe that their next of kin can specify what they would have wanted if they are no longer able to do so themselves. And 71% of the public would like a family member to make those kind of medical and care decisions on their behalf.
However, 75% haven’t discussed end of life medical and care wishes with anyone and 34% admit to having made no provisions at all, such as a will, Lasting Powers of Attorney, pension or funeral plan.
Unfortunately, even your spouse does not automatically have the power to make those decisions for you when you have lost capacity although 58% of people incorrectly believe that they do.
What can I do?
The way to ensure that your spouse, the right next-of-kin or another family member or friend can make those decisions for you is to create a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) clearly and formally stating your wishes about who can speak up for you.
Only 2% of people surveyed in Wales by SFE have this document in place but as dementia becomes a bigger and bigger issue it is important that more people get prepared.
I have a Property & Financial Affairs LPA or EPA - won't that be sufficient?
Each Lasting Power of Attorney gives different powers to your attorneys. You have no authority to make decisions about medical treatment or where someone should live if you only have Property & Financial powers.
I have a Living Will - will that be sufficient?
Making a Living Will or Advance Decision is a great way to communicate your wishes about things like end of life care but if a situation occurs which you hadn't provided for then you may need someone to make a specific decision for you. If no-one is appointed then it may be doctors or social services who make those important decisions rather than your loved ones.
What happens if I don't make a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney?
If nothing is in place then people such as doctors or social services will be responsible for making those decisions. If your family do want to get involved then they will need to make an application to the Court of Protection for them to be appointed as Deputies or for a specific order to be made. This is a long, expensive and sometimes complicated process for your loved ones to go through at what will already be a difficult time for them.
How do I know what to include in the Lasting Power of Attorney?
These are big decisions to make and an important document to get right so it is best to take professional advice. This will ensure that the document is as effective for you as it can be and should ensure that the LPA is easily registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.
For more advice on this, please contact Carolyn Snellgrove. Home appointments available if needed.
Nelson Myatt Solicitors LLP