As we all live longer, we’re presented with more and more new challenges that previous generations never had to think about.
One of the key areas for concern has been highlighted by the organisation Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), who have recently published a study warning that we are slowly drifting towards an ‘incapacity crisis’ throughout the UK.
With an ever-widening gap between the rising numbers of us likely to lose our mental capacity through dementia and the relatively small number of us who have arranged a health and welfare lasting power of attorney (LPA’s).
We might be living longer – but what kind of lives will we be living?
According to the SFE report, dementia diagnosis in the UK increased by over 50% from 2005 – 2016, to 540,000 cases. Add to this the undiagnosed cases and we’d likely be closer to 850,000.
This number is set to keep rising, with estimations putting us at over 1 Million diagnosed with dementia by 2025, with a further 300,000 going undiagnosed. Put simply, of the 12.8 million Brits over the age of 65, one in fourteen of us will develop dementia.
The chief concern raised in the SFE report focuses upon that part of the study carried out by the Centre For Future Studies. Who found that just 928,000 health and welfare (H&W) LPA’s have been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) throughout England and Wales.
This means that there are currently a staggering 12 Million people at risk of developing dementia, with no proper arrangements in place to govern their care in old age.
As we drift toward a crisis in care provision and arrangements, the SFE is urging us to focus upon and take-up our own H&W LPAs, to avoid the potential ‘huge disparity between our wishes and what will happen in reality’.
The taboo that surrounds the subjects of medical decisions and end of life care must be conquered. The subject of H&W LPA’s must become a common-place discussion around any dinner table.
As it’s widely recognised that this emotive issue is far easier to swerve than face, I thought I would try and help by giving you a three-step guide to the whole process.
The first three steps
Have a good think about what you wish to happen should you lose your mental capacity and are no longer capable of making decisions for yourself. Write the key points down, so you get a real understanding of what you would want and how you would want to live.
It’s very important that you share your thoughts with the person, or people, whom you wish to make decisions on your behalf, should you lose your capacity to do so for yourself (these are usually a family member or close friend).
It’s a difficult but important conversation to have. As a staring point, you need to let them know that you want your future wellbeing to be placed in their hands, as that’s quite a responsibility in itself. You also need to explain to them what you would like to happen around key decisions. It’s better in the long run if they have heard it from you and that they understand the thoughts behind your wishes.
It’s also important to make sure you pick the right person to act for you. Ideally it will be someone who knows you well and who will feel confident to make decisions on your behalf.
There’s nothing worse than leaving the person you appoint with a wishy-washy and legally flawed document at the time that it’s needed most. Emotions will be running high with your loved ones and a binding and rigorous LPA will be worth it’s weight in gold.
Please also be aware of the shortfall of DIY LPA’s. As they often cause more trouble and arguments than they fix, as they may not consider all the outcomes and may be legally inaccurate. All of which causes significant emotional and financial strain just when you come to rely upon it.
A proper plan is the best form of protection
Put simply, nothing will provide more control and protection than putting a robust H&W LPA in place.
So put the three-step plan in place and start those conversations, as it’s far easier to have them now rather than later. They aren’t easy subjects to broach, but it’s really important that you are able to talk your decisions through, and explain your feelings behind them, if your wishes are to be understood and followed with conviction.
If you don’t have a H&W LPA, you can talk to us and we’ll help you get the cover in place.
As always, if you have any questions regarding Health and Welfare Lasting Power Of Attorney, please call Bridgewater Financial Planning, where we will be delighted to help in anyway we can.