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The Incapacity crisis - a nation unprepared

View profile for Debbie Duggan
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For many of us life is incredibly full with a number of pressures on our time, whether that is looking after children, running a household and/or business, working as well as maintaining relationships and caring for our older relatives.  As a society we are traditionally not very good at thinking about ourselves, planning for our future or having those ‘difficult’ conversations with people very close to us.  Many of us have thoughts like  ‘I will deal with that tomorrow’ ,  ‘I understand that it is important but it is not my priority at the moment’, ‘that’s ok that won’t happen to me’ or ‘how do I even broach the subject?’

Solicitors for the Elderly have recently commissioned a report entitled ‘The incapacity crisis – a nation unprepared’ which highlights as a nation we are unprepared if they were to loose mental capacity in the future.     

There are currently over 12.8 million people in England and Wales, over the age of 65 who run the risk of developing dementia, but there are only 928,000 Health & Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney currently registered with the Office of Public Guardian in England and Wales.  The report indicates that there are almost 12 million people currently that are at high risk of future incapacity and who haven’t planned ahead to ensure that their wishes are followed.

I have written many blogs in the past about the importance of ensuring that you have put provisions in place to allow your family or people very close to you to manage your affairs in the event that you cannot in the future.  A link to my blogs can be found below:

As a result, I find that people are more readily able to consider making a Will disposing of their assets on death and even thinking about who would handle their financial affairs in the event that they were unable to, however many still find it incredibly difficult to consider the most important question – who makes those  health and welfare decisions about ME if I can’t make them myself in the future?  Whilst we have mental capacity we would always be making our own health and welfare decisions, however, it is impossible to be certain of what the future holds.

I am not always keen on statistics,  however I found the following both interesting and worrying :-

58% of adults across the UK incorrectly believe that the NHS organ donor register carries all of the information required to ensure organs are donated following death

63% of people incorrectly believe that their spouse can make medical / care decisions on their behalf

65% of people incorrectly  believe that their  ‘next of kin’ has the power to make decisions on their behalf

80% of people haven’t discussed end of life medical and care wishes

70% of people would like a family member to make medical decisions on their behalf in the event of mental incapacity. 

If , like me, the above has struck a chord, it is important to make time in our busy schedules to take the following  immediate actions to secure our future health and welfare. 

1.  Think about your wishes

The questions that you ask yourself will vary depending on your own circumstances and views, however, you may like to consider:-

  • Who would you want to be making health and welfare decisions if you couldn’t make them?
  • Would you be content that medical and health professionals, who you may not have ever met make those decisions in your best interests or would you prefer your loved ones, who know you well to be making decisions?
  • Do you want life sustaining treatment or  DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)?
  • Do you have a particular view on certain medical and care treatments that may be available?
  • How about welfare decisions – deciding where you live, what sort of care that you have, even what you wear and eat?

2.  Communicate with your loved ones

For many of us, having sensitive conversations about our future with loved ones is extremely difficult, but it is vitally important that we all do talk to the person/people close to us who would want to make decisions on your behalf should we lose capacity.  Not only are you able to communicate your wishes and preferences, it will also be reassuring to them, at an extremely emotional time,  that they are carrying out your wishes.

3.  Write your wishes down

Whilst you could document these in a letter, the best way to ensure that your wishes are followed and that those close to you are able to make decisions is to prepare a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney. This ensures that those that you choose have the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf and act in your best interests.    

It is advisable to seek advice from a specialist in creating your Lasting Power of Attorney to ensure that it is as robust as possible, ensuring that if required those you have chosen will be able to make those difficult decisions for you.

As well as taking these actions for yourself, it is important that we encourage others to do the same, especially our elderly friends and relatives.

At BakerLaw we have a dedicated  team who have a wealth of experience and include members of STEP and Solicitors for the Elderly . This means you can have peace of mind that you are dealing with a highly experienced and qualified team who  specialise in all matters relating to Private Client, including Wills, Power of Attorneys, Attorney Support Services, Tax Planning, Administration of Estates and Court of Protection related matters.  

If you would like to discuss how we may assist you or your family, please do not hesitate to get in contact with our Private Client Department directly on 01252 907829 or email privateclient@baker-law.co.uk


A full copy of the report referred to can be found here.

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