A new report from SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) and independent think tank, Centre for Future Studies, 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 98% of people in the West Midlands have not made necessary provisions, should they lose capacity from conditions like dementia. A further 36% admit to having made no provisions at all for later life, including a will, pension, funeral plan or 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 80% of people in the West Midlands are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves, but 81% have not spoken about, or even considered, personal medical and care end of life decisions.
Planning ahead is surrounded by worrying misconceptions, especially in relation to health and care preferences.
A staggering 70% of people in the West Midlands incorrectly believe that their next of kin can specify what they would have wanted if they are no longer able to and 69% believe their spouse has the power to do so. 80% of the people in the West Midlands would like a family member to make medical and care decisions on their behalf, but this is not the case. These decisions are out of a loved ones’ hands if a registered health and welfare LPA is not in place.
60% believe that being on the NHS organ donor register ensures that organs are donated following death, however 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%.
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.
Only 2% of people in West Midlands surveyed 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.
It is crucial to have a conversation with loved ones in order to make specific medical and care wishes known – such as, where you are cared for, whether you wish to be an organ donor and whether or not you would want to be resuscitated – otherwise there is a risk your preferences are not taken into account.
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.
Claire Houghton SFE Solicitor at Moore and Tibbits
"Be prepared – don’t leave important personal and subjective decisions about your health, care in the hands of strangers. The only way to avoid this is to think about what you’d want if you were to lose capacity, speak to loved ones about it, and get a Health & Welfare LPA in place”
For more information or to speak to our SFE Accredited Solicitor Claire Houghton call 01926 491181 or email ClaireH@moore-tibbits.co.uk