A new report, which can be downloaded here, 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.

A coalition of organisations, led by SFE – the specialist organisation that connects older and vulnerable clients with legal experts in older client law – is joining forces to encourage people to tackle the taboos around end of life planning, in order to prevent an incapacity crisis. Headline figures from the research are as follows:

  • 97% of people in the East of England leave important health and welfare decisions to chance
  • By 2025, more than 13 million people who are at risk of mental incapacity will not be prepared
  • 70% would like a family member to make medical and care decisions on their behalf, in the event of mental incapacity
  • 77%haven’t discussed end of life medical and care wishes
  • 36% admit to having made no provisions at all, such as a Will, LPA, pension or funeral plan

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

A staggering 62% of people in the East England surveyed incorrectly believe that their next of kin can specify what they would have wanted if they are no longer able to and many believe their spouse has the power to make these decisions, but if there is not a registered health and welfare LPA in place the these decisions are out of a loved ones’ hands.

62% believe that being on the NHS organ donor register ensures that organs are donated following death; however this is also 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.

There are currently 928,000 Health and Welfare LPAs registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) across England and Wales, compared to the 12.8 million people over the age of 65 who run the risk of developing dementia – a difference of nearly 93%.

The forecast shows the disparity will continue, leaving millions in limbo. By 2025, it’s likely that 15.2 million people will be at risk of mental incapacity and that 2.2 million health and welfare LPAs will be in place. This shows that the health and welfare wishes of 13 million people will not be taken into account.

Less than 3% surveyed by SFE in the East of England have a health and welfare LPA in place.

SFE is urging the nation to act now to avoid this incapacity crisis by planning ahead in case of mental incapacity and to put an LPA for health and welfare decisions in place. It is calling on people to start a conversation with loved ones about end of life topics and trying to remove the stigma surrounding the discussion.

Thompson Smith and Puxon has two full accredited members of SFE, Fiona Ashworth, who leads the TSP Wills and Estates team, and Aileen Hirst, Associate Solicitor in the same team. Fiona and Aileen, as well as other members of the TSP Wills and Estates team, can help you to put a Lasting Power of Attorney for health and welfare in place and ensure that it is robust and covers all of the things that you need it to.

Don’t leave it too late. Plan Ahead! SFE advises that it is crucial to have a conversation with loved ones in order to make your 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 will not be taken into account.

SFE have also put together a short video on the subject which can be viewed above.