Most healthcare professionals come across lasting powers of attorney on a regular basis. A Lasting Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to nominate who should make decisions for you, should you lose mental capacity to act for yourself. There are two types: one that allows you to specify how your financial affairs should be managed, and the one that doctors, nurses and carers more often see that allows you to record what medication you consent to be given and how you would like to be cared for.

The government department in charge of registering the documents and investigating abuse of powers, the Office of the Public Guardian, abbreviated to the OPG, is trying to encourage more people to make this type of power of attorney. There are good reasons why all adults, and especially healthcare professionals should have these documents in place.

Lasting Power Of Attorney

We can lose mental capacity at any time

A survey by IPSOS Mori found that many people were either putting off making a Lasting Power of Attorney, or didn’t consider that they were old enough to need to make one. There is an understandable fear that to make one is to acknowledge that your current lifestyle might change soon.

But we should recognise that is the case at any point in time. A serious car accident poses a risk of loss of capacity to someone of any age. Early onset dementia affects people younger than 65 years old. Making a Lasting Power of Attorney isn’t just a helping tool for the elderly.

A lasting power of attorney only comes into effect if you lose mental capacity (with the exception of giving someone some powers to manage your financial affairs if you choose to do so). People often make the mistake that registering the documents is giving up control of your life immediately to your attorneys. It isn’t. It’s a means of giving yourself some protection should you need it. While you have capacity, you remain totally in control of your life.

The other way for someone to take charge of decisions for you is time consuming and costly

Another misunderstanding is that if you do lose mental capacity, your husband, wife, carer or family member can continue to do the things you did on your behalf. Unfortunately, common tasks such as taking out money from an ATM or paying a bill can only be done legally by you, and only if you have mental capacity. Otherwise, the person acting on your behalf will be breaking the law.

The alternative to having registered a lasting power of attorney is for your carers to seek power from the Court of Protection. This is time consuming and costly, and while court proceedings are happening, no-one will be able to make decisions on your behalf. That means if you need urgent care, the best decision about it might not be able to be made.

In contrast, making a Lasting Power of Attorney does not have to be expensive. There are two online services (one operated by the government) that allow you to create the document immediately. Alternatively, you can complete paper versions of the forms. The Office of the Public Guardian charge £110 to register each Lasting Power of Attorney, although if you are eligible, you can apply for fees to be reduced significantly.

There really is no reason why every adult shouldn’t have LPAs in place.

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