‘A Lasting Power of Attorney is for those suffering from illnesses like dementia and / or living in care. It is something you only consider in older age’.
Do you agree with the above point of view? If you do, you’re not alone.
Most of us may not consider assigning a LPA to be that important – especially at a younger age. Read on to understand the domino effect which can be caused by not having an LPA in place. This document legally sets out a person’s wishes if they are ever unable to make decisions for themselves.
At the age of 25, Martin decided to put in place an LPA. He wanted his partner (who he is not married to) and his parents to be able to make decision on his behalf should anything happen to him. He had decided to take control, having learned the hard way the results of not having an LPA.
Martin told us that at the age of 23, he had been involved in an incident, leaving him in the ICU ward in hospital. He had damage to his neck, head, brain and spine and has no recollection of what happened; only what he had been told by others. He said that before this he had always thought that LPAs were for people suffering from illnesses like dementia or those living in care facilities. He had never thought he would be in a position where his life would revolve around another person making decisions for him. Until this event happened.
Who makes decisions for you when you cannot make them for yourself?
While in hospital, he was informed that:
- His partner (let’s call her Adele), who he lived with, was not allowed to be in the room with him while he lacked capacity. With his family living over two hours away, she felt helpless. She watched Martin suffer in a room full of doctors, nurses, and surgeons who knew nothing about him. Nor did they understand the kind of decisions he might make, if he could decide for himself.
- The hospital staff would not talk to Adele because “she was not his wife” and they “had no proof that they were together.”
- Even if Adele had proof, she would only be allowed in the room. She would not have had any say or influence over the doctors’ decisions.
- When his family did arrive and vouched for Adele as his partner, the doctors still refused to let her into the room. There was still no “solid proof” of her connection to Martin.
- While Martin’s mum was allowed into the room, they asked his father to provide evidence that they were, in fact, his parents.
Proving who’s who
In today’s world of GDPR and patient confidentiality, the medical staff at the hospital had no other option than to request proof of lineage. All of these formalities, and the events that occurred in Martin’s case could have been avoided if he had an LPA in place.
And the issues didn’t stop there.
Fortunately, Martin recovered enough to be sent home. The medication he was on impaired his mental capacity which fluctuated considerably for the best part of a year, from short to long periods of the day. He said that he had never considered lack of sleep a capacity issue. However, in his condition, there were days when he couldn’t sleep and felt zombie-like. This meant he struggled with simple decisions, and his anxiety and mental illnesses heightened, ultimately causing him to not want to leave the house.
Why would having an Lasting Power of Attorney have made a difference?
In Martin’s situation, with an LPA it would have allowed others who Martin trusted to make decisions for him. And speak to people on his behalf. He even admitted that “it might have helped my recovery” had somebody else been able to take charge of his decisions.
His story highlights the importance of having an LPA, emphasising that it is not just for those who are:
- elderly or of a mature age
- in care homes and facilities
- experiencing permanent capacity issues
- suffering from illnesses e.g. dementia, which reduce mental capacity.
Martin learned how rapidly a change in circumstances rippled outward to affect close family and loved ones. This made an already distressing situation worse when he lost the mental capacity to make decisions for himself.
Capacity can come and goes and is not as clear cut and consistent as people think. Fluctuating mental capability can affect anybody. Who can really say that ‘nothing is going to happen’ or ‘this would never happen to me’. Unfortunately Martin learned the hard way that things can happen out of the blue. Without an LPA, who can really be prepared for what could happen next?
Now Martin is protected by an LPA. His loved ones who know him well can now make decisions for him if ever he loses mental capacity.
If this story has made you consider an LPA, please get in touch to talk through what to do next.
If you need any further information about Lasting Power of Attorneys, have a look at our Lasting Power of Attorney Information Guide.