Most of us take pride in being organised (or at least in our attempts to be organised). Yet it is likely we are all guilty at some point of being short-sighted in planning ahead, and particularly remissed in doing so for our later years or “worst-case” scenarios.
The ability to make decisions yourself may be lost slowly over time (for example as usually the case with dementia), or very quickly (for example if you suffer a stroke, a brain injury or accident). So it really is never too early to put arrangements in place.
Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) having recently received some “bad press”, as Melinda Giles highlighted in her blog on the real risks of making a Power of Attorney. But in this note I turn to focus on the LPA for Health and Welfare, together with “Living Wills”.
Health & Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney
A Health & Welfare LPA, as the title suggests, deals with just that: decisions in relation to your well-being, including where you live and, if needed, the medical treatment you receive. This may be down to even the finest details, such as what you wear, eat, with whom you interact and what medication you should take.
It may sound draconian, but it is important to note that this type of LPA can only ever be used when the person in question has lost capacity to make these decisions themselves i.e. when they have an illness, or other “disturbance of the mind”. In this situation they no longer appreciate how to look after themselves or what is in their best interests.
The attorney is appointed while the “donor” (the person who made the LPA) does have capacity. The attorney then makes decisions on behalf of the donor in accordance with the Mental Capacity, and where appropriate, taking into account the donor’s wishes. It can therefore be viewed as a tool to equip yourself, as it allows you as the donor to choose your attorney(s) freely, rather than leaving these types of decision in the hands of medical professionals or social/care workers.
Why You Might Need an Advance Decision
In addition, it may be appropriate to make an Advance Decision (also called a “Living Will” or Advance Directive). It is important to appreciate these are more detailed than a simple “do not resuscitate” form which you or your next of kin may be asked to sign. An Advance Decision is a device which allows you to retain control and express your own wishes, by specifying what treatment or in which circumstances you wish to refuse medical assistance.
If prepared properly, it is a legally binding document and a helpful guide for your doctor (you need to give them a copy!). You can have both an Advance Decision and an LPA for Health & Welfare, but you need to make sure they do not “cancel” each other out, or override each other.
It can be difficult to think about how your life might end, but planning ahead can also be seen as empowering, as it allows you to take retain a certain degree of autonomy. It can help to discuss matters with your doctor, social worker, or friends and family. Our Private Client team at Giles Wilson can also explain the details of the individual documents, the ways in which they may interact, and work together with you to take charge of your future care and treatment.
Request a consultation with us on 01702 477106 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We take great efforts to protect the best interests of our clients throughout Essex, and will be happy to discuss the right solution for any legal issue you may have.