What is a ‘Power of Attorney’ and why should you consider one?
When we hear the term ‘Power of Attorney’ most of us think of giving someone authority over our affairs.
It is important to note that all Powers of Attorney, whether General, Enduring or Lasting only relate to your financial property and affairs and not your personal wellbeing unless you make a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney, which is the only Power of Attorney relating to your personal welfare and health matters.
It is the same procedure to make a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney as it is to make a Financial Property and Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney but it is very different in its use and the power it gives your Attorneys.
If, and only if, you lose mental capacity, a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney will give your Attorneys the ability to make decisions about:
- Where you should live and who you should live with, allowing greater control over the choice of care home or whether you remain at home or live with a family member;
- Your day-to-day care, including diet and dress;
- Who you may have contact with;
- Consenting to or refusing medical examinations and treatment, including drug therapies on your behalf;
- Arrangements needed for you to be given physiotherapy or speech therapy;
- Assessments for and provision of community care services;
- Whether you should take part in social activities, leisure activities, educational training;
- Your personal correspondence and papers including access to medical records and information;
- Complaints about your care and treatment;
- Enabling access to information for claims in your name such as challenges to continuing health care funding or personal injury claims.
All the time you have mental capacity these decisions are yours and only yours to make.
If you lose mental capacity, without a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney nobody has legal authority to make these types of decisions and therefore it is up to the health care professionals in charge of your care to make such decisions in your best interests. The health care professionals have a duty to consult with your family on these decisions but do not have to follow their opinions.
Most of the time, both the health care professionals in charge of your care and your family, are all acting in your best interests and therefore all agree but not always.
A Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney can be particularly important in making sure your wishes are carried out in the following circumstances:
- If you have family members (particularly children) who don’t get on with each other or they disagree about your care needs;
- If you have a long term partner but are not married or in a civil partnership but want them to be able to make decisions about your health and welfare;
- You have no close family members;
- If you have periods of temporary incapacity;
- If you have physical medical conditions where your Attorneys would need access to medical records;
- You have particularly strong views as to the type or nature of your care;
- If you want to give someone authority to make decisions about life sustaining treatment but do not have an advance medical decision (otherwise known as a Living Will);
- You need help bringing legal action for medical negligence, personal injury, or a challenge for care home fee funding which require access to your health care records.
If you would like to make a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney or would like further advice on this or any other matter please contact us today.
The process to register a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney can be between 10 and 15 weeks so it is important to get started early.