03 July, 2018
Leading law firm Forbes Solicitors is urging Lancashire people to consider end of life planning in the wake of a new report from Solicitors for the Elderly ("SFE"), and independent think tank, Centre for Future Studies.
"The incapacity crisis: a nation unprepared" reveals the UK is leaving medical and care preferences to chance. The report looks at the ever-increasing number of people living with dementia which, combined with the failure to plan ahead for mental incapacity, exposes a looming crisis.
The study found 96% of people in the North West have not made necessary provisions, should they lose capacity from conditions like dementia. In addition, 40% of respondents admitted to having made no provisions at all for later life; including a will, pension, funeral plan or Lasting Power of Attorney ("LPA").
In response, a coalition of organisations, led by SFE - the specialist organisation that 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, in order to prevent an incapacity crisis.
The research found that 75% of people in the North West are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves, but 78% have not spoken about, or even considered, personal medical and care end of life decisions.
Kirsty McNulty, Associate Solicitor in the Wills, Probate, Tax & Trusts Department at Forbes Solicitors and member of the SFE, said: "Planning ahead is surrounded by worrying misconceptions, especially in relation to health and care preferences.
"A staggering 67% of people in the North West incorrectly believe that their next of kin can specify what they would have wanted if they are no longer able to, and 73% of the public would like a family member to make medical and care decisions on their behalf. However, this is not the case. These decisions are out of a loved one's hands if a registered health and welfare LPA is not in place.
"58% believe that being on the NHS organ donor register ensures that organs are donated following death. Again, this is not the case. It's crucial for people to discuss organ donation preferences with family and friends, otherwise it may not happen.
Without the necessary provisions in place, potential life-changing medical and care decisions are taken away from loved ones."
"There are currently 928,000 Health and Welfare LPAs registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) across England and Wales, compared to the 12.8 million people over the age of 65 who run the risk of developing dementia - a difference of nearly 93%. Only 4% of people in the North West surveyed by SFE have a health and welfare LPA in place.
"The forecast shows the disparity will continue, leaving millions in limbo. By 2025, it's calculated that 15.2 million people will be at risk of mental incapacity and it's estimated that 2.2 million health and welfare LPAs will be in place. This shows that the health and welfare wishes of 13 million people will not be taken into account."
SFE is urging the nation to act now to avoid this incapacity crisis by planning ahead in case of mental incapacity.
Kirsty McNulty said: "It is essential to think about your long term wishes, discuss these with your family, and take steps as and where necessary to protect them. Whilst the issues at hand are understandably difficult to consider and discuss, if you fail to take steps to protect your wishes, not only is there no guarantee that your wishes will be honoured, but your loved ones could face considerable difficulty understanding and achieving the outcome that you would have preferred.
"An LPA is a powerful legal document, which allows you to choose attorneys to handle your affairs in the event that you are no longer able to do so. As an LPA must be put in place while you have the mental capacity to do so, it is 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.
"LPAs can cover financial affairs, choices around care plans, medical treatment and end of life wishes, management of property and other assets, bank accounts and bill payments for example. Each one will be tailored to your individual wishes and needs."