What will happen if there comes a time when you cannot manage your own affairs, perhaps because you have a stroke or develop dementia? Who will be making decisions for you? Will it be someone you have chosen, or someone who decides that they know best?
Although mental incapacity can strike at any time, a lot of my work is with individuals who have lost capacity through dementia, which means that this is an ‘end of life issue’. Dementia does not, yet, have a cure and is therefore ultimately a terminal illness.
If you have a trusted family member or friend, then you can choose to appoint them as your attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney. They can be asked to make decisions about your finances and or health issues. If you do not have a Power of Attorney in place at the time you lose capacity, then an application will need to be made to the Court of Protection for the management of your finances. Decisions about your health will not be so easy to delegate.
If you are not comfortable with delegating decisions about your health to another person, then an advance decision may be appropriate for you. This is a legally binding document sometimes known as a ‘living will’.
However, if this is too daunting, how about simply making a statement about your wishes? The Lions Message in a Bottle scheme is a simple, but effective, way to keep essential personal and medical details where they can be found in an emergency – the fridge!
No matter who you want to make decisions for you or how you convey them – do continue the #BigConversation.
If you or a relative need advice regarding mental capacity and best interest decisions please contact a member of our Mental Capacity and Welfare team.