A new report has revealed that 77% of adults in Yorkshire and the Humber are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make important decisions for themselves in later life.
That figure is contained in a new report from the Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) who have launched a campaign” Choice Not Chance” to raise awareness of the important, but little used, health and welfare lasting power of attorney (LPAs) document which sets out an individual’s wishes for end of life medical and care treatment. Despite someone in the UK developing dementia every three minutes, only 3% of people in the country have a health and welfare LPA in place.
The campaign was triggered by a report from the independent think tank, Centre for Future Studies, commissioned by the SFE which covered the whole of the UK. It revealed that a staggering 99% of people in Yorkshire and the Humber leave important health and welfare decisions to chance and have not made any provisions, should they lose capacity from conditions like dementia. The study also highlighted that 35% have made no provisions at all for later life, including a will, pension, funeral plan or LPA.
Rachel Roche, of York based Roche Legal, a member of the SFE who specialises in helping the elderly and vulnerable with legal problems, explained: “LPAs are important legal documents where you write down your wishes for your end of life medical and care treatment. The message from this report is clear: Don’t leave life changing, highly personal end of life care decisions in the hands of strangers. “
Experts estimate that by 2025, more than 13 million people who are at risk of mental incapacity in the UK will not be prepared for the legal implications. Currently, in the Yorkshire and Humber region 68% of people incorrectly believe that their next of kin can specify what they would have wanted if they are no longer able to and 75% of the public would like a family member to make medical and care decisions on their behalf.
Rachel added: “It is clear from the finding of the report that we are a nation unprepared and too few of us have planned ahead to make sure our wishes are followed should we be unable to make our own decisions. This is causing a looming ‘incapacity crisis’ with the report showing that 79% of people in the UK haven’t discussed their medical or care wishes with loved ones.”
Rachel and other members of SFE – which connects older and vulnerable clients with legal experts in older client law – are joining forces to encourage people to tackle the taboos around end of life planning.
Key statistics in the report revealed that in Yorkshire and the Humber;
- 99% of adults leave important health and welfare decisions to chance
- 77% of adults are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves
- 75% would like a family member to make medical and care decisions on their behalf, in the event of mental incapacity
- 75% haven’t discussed end of life medical and care wishes
- 65% of adults incorrectly believe that their spouse has the power to make medical and care decisions on their behalf
- 35% admit to having made no provisions at all, such as a will, LPA, pension or funeral plan
Rachel is hoping the report’s findings will see more people put plans in place for later life and said: “ 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. Without the necessary provisions in place, potential life-changing medical and care decisions are taken away from loved ones.”
Jeremy Hughes CBE, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “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 provide reassurance to them and the act of creating one can start useful conversations about the future with family and friends.”
About SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly)
SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) is 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.
The main areas of law members cover are:
- Powers of Attorney
- Making a Will
- Living Wills/Advance decisions
- Tax planning
- Asset preservation
- Paying for care
- NHS Continuing Care Funding
- Will disputes
- Court of Protection
- Elder abuse
In order to be a fully accredited member, lawyers must have a minimum of three years’ experience advising in areas of older client law and have completed the Older Client Care in Practice Award – a qualification which demonstrates the specialist client care skills that enable lawyers to advise and support older and vulnerable clients.
Members are also required to continuously update their knowledge with training and produce an annual statement of competence, which ensures they maintain their expertise.
Clients of SFE members can also be reassured by the SFE code of practice and safety of redress through the members’ regulatory bodies, should something go wrong.
For more information about SFE or our members, please visit www.sfe.legal or call us on 0844 567 6173 to find an SFE member near you.
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.
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.
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.
Note to editors:
- The report titled The incapacity crisis: a nation unprepared was produced by SFE in June 2018. Further research was conducted by Centre for Future Studies.
- The consumer polling was commissioned by SFE in March 2018, which polled 1,977 adults across the UK. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK regions (aged 18+)
- Rachel Roche is an award-winning solicitor based in York and can be contacted for interview through Chris Jones Media on 07774 772820/07738 005133