New report warns of looming incapacity crisis

Wednesday 4 July 2018

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 97% of people in the East of England have not made necessary provisions, should they lose capacity from conditions like dementia. A further 36 per cent 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 74 per cent of people in the East of England are worried about dementia and losing the ability to make decisions for themselves, but 77 per cent have not spoken about, or even considered, personal medical and care end of life decisions.

Elizabeth Young, partner and head of private client at Roythornes Solicitors, said:
“The figures released in the report this week are concerning to say the least. As a society, we are living longer and conditions such as dementia remain a prevalent, and indeed a growing, issue in our society, and it is clear to see that many of us are not sufficiently planning ahead to ensure that our wishes are followed should one become unable to make their own decisions.

“Health and Welfare LPAs shouldn’t be seen as a melancholy or complicated measure to put into place, nor are they a sign that the donor is approaching illness or other incapacitation. The take-home message from this report is simply preparedness: don’t leave important personal and subjective decisions about your health care in the hands of those you would not wish for them to be, open the conversation by speaking to your loved ones and seek advice from an SFE lawyer to ensure robust documentation is in place and covers all that you need it to.”

Planning ahead is surrounded by worrying misconceptions, especially in relation to health and care preferences.

A staggering 62 per cent of people in the East of England incorrectly believe that their next of kin can specify what they would have wanted if they are no longer able to and 59 per cent believe their spouse has the power to do so. 70 per cent of the people in the East of England 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.

62 per cent 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.

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.