The Incapacity Crisis – A game of chance (“Live long and ….?)
A report was released earlier this summer by the Solicitors for the Elderley (SFE), a group of specialist lawyers, and a leading think tank, Centre for Future Studies, suggesting the UK is facing an incapacity crisis. An increase in life expectancy combined with the prevalence of conditions such as alzheimers, however, has meant that the risk of future incapacity is increasing. Yet statistics indicate a worrying lack of advanced planning in the UK to ensure medical care needs and wishes will be fulfilled when we are no longer able to make decisions for ourselves. A staggering 63% of people incorrectly believe that their next of kin can make medical decisions for them should they become incapacitated.
In reality these decisions are out of the loved ones’ hands if a registered health and welfare Lasting Power of Attorney ("LPA") is not in place. Only medical practitioners and care professionals acting in your best interest have the authority to make the final medical and care decisions for you should you not be able to make them yourself. In the event of a dispute between the professionals and family members a Court of Protection application must be made. This can take many months to achieve and prove costly. In addition, there is a chance that the Court may actually reject the application or make a decision which is not in line with your wishes.
The most secure way to ensure that your wishes are carried out, is to put down in law what your health and care preferences are by creating a LPA. In this way you will also ensure that the people who make decisions about your affairs are the people you would choose. However, end of life choices can be an uncomfortable conversation to have with loved ones and therefore plans are seldom put in place. Further statistics reveal that only 3% of Britons have a health and welfare LPA in place and by 2025, it is calculated that circa 15 million people will be at risk of mental incapacity and only an estimated 2.2 million will have a health and welfare LPAs in place. Unfortunately, this would mean the health and welfare wishes of 13 million people will not be taken into account.
It is no surprise therefore that many Industry bodies are urging people not to leave everything to chance and consider putting LPA’s in place now, whatever their age.