A new report from SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) and independent think tank Centre for Future Studies reveals that people in the UK are 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 East Midlands have not made necessary provisions, should they lose capacity from conditions like dementia. A further 32% 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 72% of people in the East Midlands are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves, but 77% 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 67% of people in the region incorrectly believe that their next of kin can specify what they would have wanted if they are no longer able to and 61% believe their spouse has the power to do so. 66% of the people in the East 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.
58% 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.
Karen Hayward, a partner in Rothera Sharp’s Wills and Probate department said: “As the SFE report reveals, too many people are leaving their care preferences to chance even though many are worried about losing capacity to make their own decisions in later life. It is vital that individuals let their loved ones know their medical and care wishes, otherwise there is the risk that their choices will not be taken into account. At Rothera Sharp we can assist clients with writing Lasting Powers of Attorney, even arranging home or hospital appointments if more convenient.”
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 the East 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.
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.
To download the report, a short video and infographics, visit https://sfe.legal/the-incapacity-crisis-a-nation-unprepared/