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Incapacity Crisis: Why you need a Welfare Power of Attorney.

The number of people living with dementia worldwide in 2015 was 47 million; by 2030 that figure will reach 75 million. A new case is diagnosed every 3.2 seconds.

With these shocking statistics it is not surprising that there is a widening gap between the rising number of people likely to lose capacity and the relatively small number who have arranged a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (H&W LPA). Only 928,000 H&W LPAs have been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. This suggests there are 12 million people at significant risk of losing mental capacity who have not made proper arrangements for their care in old age.

The majority of people are still avoiding important conversations and practical actions to make their preferences known about their end-of-life care and final affairs. We do need to talk about end-of life care and how we would want to be treated if we found ourselves in circumstances where our quality of life is extremely poor. Often people tell us they simply want to be comfortable, hydrated and well cared-for. However, if they have not legally empowered trusted individuals to make these wishes known, it could be that this is not what actually happens.

Part of the reluctance to make our wishes known is the misconception that the `next of kin,’ (which is a term widely used in health & social care decisions) has an automatic right to act on behalf of an incapacitated relative. In fact, the term has little basis in law, the next of kin are not automatically empowered to make any decisions. The authority to make decisions still lies the professional within the health or social care system.

H&W LPAs are useful documents offering protection and control as they allow you to appoint your chosen attorneys. Conversations with relatives are important, but it’s also necessary to empower those chosen people in writing. The best way to do this is to express your wishes in an H&W LPA; this eliminates doubt and gives legal validity to your choices.

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