Every three minutes somebody develops dementia. But it’s estimated that only three per cent of peoplein England have a health and welfare power of attorney, which allows you to appoint somebody to make decisions about care on your behalf.
It’s a sobering fact that one in three people are now likely to develop dementia. And it’s an indiscriminate disease that could affect any one of us.
When you’re no longer able to make decisions about your care, many people – wrongly – believe that trusted family and friends would be the ones to champion your case if you develop health needs.
A health and welfare lasting power of attorney (LPA) allows you to give a person or persons of your choice the ability to make decisions for you if you can’t.
That can be agreeing what kind of medical care you receive, your daily routine such as washing, dressing and eating, or where you live. You can appoint one person or more and say whether they can make decisions alone or jointly.
Without a health and welfare LPA, these decisions will be left to a care manager in social services who may not be so familiar with your wishes.
But dementia isn’t the only reason you might need a health and welfare LPA. If you had a car accident or a sudden brain injury or illness that rendered you unable to act for yourself, a health and welfare LPA means that people of your choosing can make the right decisions on your behalf in accordance with how you’d like to be cared for.
In reality, everyone needs an LPA. Even if you’re fighting fit you never know when that could change and, by the time something happens and you need one, it’s too late.
You can also have a financial LPA that gives someone of your choice the authority to deal with your property and money such as paying bills, dealing with your bank accounts, investments or pensions. Without a financial LPA all of your property and money will pass into the hands of the Court of Protection, which would appoint an individual to manage financial affairs on your behalf.
* Graham deals with a broad range of matters including wills, powers of attorney, care fees, tax planning and probate. He is a full member of the Society of Estate Practitioners and Solicitors for the Elderly and is studying to become a member of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate solicitors.