‘The UK is approaching an Incapacity Crisis’. This is the stark warning issued recently by Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE). A report published by the organisation has stated that, as numbers of diagnosed dementia cases rise within our aging population, the gap between those who lack capacity and those who have arranged a Lasting Power of Attorney is widening.
According to research by the SFE, by 2025, it is estimated that over a million people in the UK will be diagnosed with dementia, losing their ability to make important decisions about their finances and their healthcare. With even more people going undiagnosed and an estimated 12 million people at significant risk of developing the disease, the report highlights that around 13.2 million people won’t have put formal arrangements in place, leaving them unprepared for the realities of losing capacity.
What happens when you lose capacity?
If you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself, the outcome can vary a great deal depending on the arrangements you have put in place.
If you have nominated someone you trust, using a Lasting Power of Attorney, they will be able to step in and make decisions for you, regarding either your estate and finances or the care that you receive.
If you have not made this arrangement, you and your loved ones may find decisions are made that don’t take account of your wishes. You may not receive the treatment you want and your loved ones may struggle to gain access to your finances, accounts and other important information to help take control of your affairs.
How a Lasting Power of Attorney can help you take control
Lasting Powers of Attorney, also known as LPAs, help provide you with peace of mind that, should you be unable to, someone you know and trust can take control of your affairs, acting in your best interests and in accordance with your wishes.
A Lasting Powers of Attorney can be used to determine decisions about your health and welfare or about your property, assets and finances. Either way, they are about giving you control over who you would like to oversee this for you. Without a formal agreement, anyone can apply to the Court of Protection in order to make decisions on your behalf once you have lost capacity and this may not be a person you would have chosen.
Putting in place an agreement whilst you are able means your choices and preferences for the future are assured.
Don’t leave it too late.
Whilst statistics show that people are more savvy about the financial risks that can occur when capacity is lost, it is healthcare that is still an afterthought. With a long standing unease around the topic of end-of-life care, many people simply put off making a decision about their health and welfare until it’s too late. This often leads to difficult situations as family members are left helpless, unable to overrule decisions made for their loved one that they know wouldn’t have been their choice.
SFE is calling for an increase in awareness for Health and Welfare LPAs to ensure that people are taking the best precautions they can to ensure their wishes are followed when the time comes.
'Nothing offers more protection and control than putting an H&W LPA in place', says the organisation. 'Conversations [with relatives] are important, but it's also necessary to set out what you want in writing. Even creating an email trail with key decisions will help, but the best way to do this is to formalise your wishes in an H&W LPA. This eliminates doubt and gives legal validity to your choices.'
Find out more about creating an LPA