Do you have a family member in a care or nursing home? Do you want to be included in decisions involving their medical care and finances? There may come a time when you’ll need to be a Power of Attorney to do so. But, what is a power of attorney? Why is it important for our elderly relatives to have one? And how can you, a family member or friend, help them with this? Read on for plain and simple answers to these important questions and more.
Please note, the following does not constitute legal advice but is simply a guide to help.
What is a Power of Attorney?
DEFINITION: It’s a document that allows you to be included in important decisions involving the medical care and finances of your family member. It is a document that they, or a family member, can create on GOV.UK.
Knowing the lingo
Before we get cracking, there’s always some legal lingo that can be confusing. So here are the keywords associated with power of attorneys laid out in plain English.
- There are two types of Power of Attorney:
- Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA): this ended in 2007 so you don’t have to worry about this one. If you already have one, that’s fine – any made before 2007 are still valid.
- Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA): replaced the EPA in 2007. The LPA is the one we’re talking about in this article.
- Donor: the person who needs to appoint someone to make decisions for them. For the purpose of this article, this is your elderly family member. (But in reality, the donor can be anyone over 18 and that has mental capacity.)
- Attorney: the person given the legal power to make decisions on behalf of the donor. This is you – the relatives or friends of the elderly individual.
Why set up a Power of Attorney?
So now we know what an LPA is, why have one? An LPA is enacted when a person loses mental capacity. This means they can no longer make decisions for themselves, their care or finances. An example of this is when someone develops dementia. This is, sadly, all too common when it comes to our parents, grandparents, or elderly relatives. It can be the reason they go into care or something that develops while they’re there.
(Of course, it’s not the only thing that causes one to lack mental capacity. The NHS lists some examples here. A qualified professional or doctor can assess someone’s mental capacity.)
What if my family member has just been diagnosed with dementia?
It’s ok – this doesn’t mean that they lack mental capacity just yet. But time is running out to set up an LPA, so get this done as quickly as possible.
What if I don’t set one up?
If you don’t set up an LPA for your loved one and they lose their mental capacity, you will not be able to legally represent them. Then, the only way to act on their behalf is to go through a lengthy and expensive process which involves going to court to become a deputy. So get this sorted while you can! An LPA is the easiest way to ensure you will be involved in managing their affairs if they ever lose mental capacity.
So now we’ve looked at the importance of setting up an LPA for them while they still have mental capacity. Now we’ll explore what an LPA can allow you to do for your relative.
What does being an LPA allow me to do for my relative?
The donor can appoint one or two separate people as their LPAs. One can manage financial matters & property, and another can make medical and care-related decisions for them. But one person can also manage both. If two are chosen, the donor can decide whether they make decisions jointly or whether they can make decisions without the other being involved. The attorney(s) must always act in the best interests of the donor. Find out exactly what decisions LPAs can make on behalf of the donor on the GOV.UK website, here.
How much does an LPA cost?
It costs £82 for a donor to register one person as an LPA. Visit the government website to see if you are eligible for a reduction.
Will an LPA take away my relative’s freedom to choose?
No, they will still have their independence as long as they have mental capacity. The LPA doesn’t have to be put into effect immediately. It’s good to reassure your loved one; they’re not losing control. The LPA just gives them peace of mind, knowing their wishes can be carried out in the future. It will be brought into effect when they lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.
Can an LPA only be enacted once the donor lacks mental capacity?
No, an LPA can be enacted while someone still has mental capacity. For instance, they may be able to handle their care but might get a little confused when it comes to managing their finances. If they have already appointed someone as an LPA over their finances, they can call on this person to make financial decisions for them.
How can we help you?
At Southcare, we want to make things as easy as possible – for our residents and their relatives. And we’ve seen how hard it is when relatives don’t have a say in their loved one’s care or finances. When it comes to their care and future plans, it is good to have the family involved. So we cannot urge you enough to ensure you have a Lasting Power of Attorney set up for your relatives, whether they’re in a home or not. If you need to set up a Power of Attorney for your loved one, do so here on the GOV.UK website. Or get in touch with your home manager for more information.