Local solicitor Chris Keenan from Humphries Kirk has joined fellow members of Solicitors for the Elderly to warn of looming incapacity crises. A new report from SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) and independent think tank, Centre for Future Studies, reveals that 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 South West have not made necessary provision in case they should lose capacity from conditions like dementia. A further 39% admit to having made no provision at all for later life, including a will, pension, funeral plan or LPA.
In response to the study, 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 76% of people in the South West are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves, but 83% have not spoken about, or even considered, personal medical care and end of life decisions. Planning ahead is surrounded by worrying misconceptions, especially in relation to health and care preferences.
A staggering 65% of people in the South West incorrectly believe that their next of kin can act on their behalf if they are no longer able, whilst 73% would like a family member to make medical and care decisions on their behalf. Without a registered health and welfare LPA such decisions may be taken out of the hands of such family members.
58% of people believe that being on the NHS organ donor register ensures that organs are donated following death. This is not the case, however, and it is crucial for people to discuss organ donation preferences with family and friends to ensure that their wishes are carried out. 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%.
Forecasts show that the disparity will continue, leaving millions in limbo. By 2025, it is calculated that 15.2 million people will be at risk of mental incapacity and it is estimated that 2.2 million health and welfare LPAs will be in place. This suggests that the health and welfare wishes of at least 13 million people may not be taken into account.
Only 4% of Britons surveyed in the South West by SFE have a health and welfare LPA in place.
SFE is urging the nation to act now to avoid this incapacity crisis by planning ahead in case of mental incapacity. 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.
Lakshmi Turner, SFE chief executive, commented: “Most of us do not like thinking about, let alone talking about, death, disability or disease, despite the fact that it touches all our lives – but it is essential that we do so.
“Whilst it’s great that more and more of us are putting wills in place and establishing plans for finances and assets, far too few of us are planning ahead for our health and care needs and wishes, leaving this to chance.
“It’s time to set the record straight. Planning ahead by talking to family or friends shouldn’t be seen as doom and gloom, it’s about having a positive conversation about welfare, empowering your loved ones and making the decision-making process easier for everyone.”
Chris Keenan, partner at Humphries Kirk in Dorchester and fully accredited SFE member, commented: “I find that most of my clients are broadly familiar with an LPA for Property and Financial Affairs but it has taken some time since their introduction in 2007 for the LPA for Health and Welfare to become established and for people to see the benefits of having them in place.
“However, in comparison, there is still a low take up rate and I would encourage members of the public to consider the importance of an LPA for Health and Welfare and seek advice from qualified legal professionals.”
Humphries Kirk has offices in Bournemouth, Parkstone, Poole, Swanage, Wareham, Dorchester, and Crewkerne and has an international network of lawyers. The firm provides legal expertise to private and commercial clients. Visit www.hklaw.eu for further information.