This week, the cost of care has taken centre stage in UK politics. The ballooning elderly population is putting a strain on the NHS, and friends and relatives acting as carers. People may be living longer but, with dementia and Alzheimer’s now the number one cause of death in the UK, this does not necessarily imply better health but prolonged suffering with mental or physical incapacity.
Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May are at loggerheads over what the government should do to relieve the pressure of the price of care on the nation. The Labour leader, according to the BBC, believes that the current situation where the elderly are woefully under-supported is a “crisis made in Downing Street”. But, although the Prime Minister has promised a “long-term, sustainable system”, it remains unclear how the aging NHS, born after World War II, will get to the end of this debate still standing.
Unable to rely on the NHS in the current system, the elderly are relying on their own savings or obliging relatives to fund the extortionate fees of care homes and nurses. Four in ten people in care homes pay the costs themselves. But the debilitating burden of these expenses also falls on those who would have otherwise benefitted from the money in inheritance.
Although the provision of care is largely dependent on government policy, there are certain ways of personally taking back control. One way of having a say over your care, and even your death, is through signing a lasting power of attorney. This is when a person nominates a relative, friend or solicitor to make decisions on their behalf and/or take care of their finances. Crucially, the ‘donor’ can make decisions about their own care arrangements for their attorney to follow.
Chris Hall, Director of Private Client at Vardags, gave this comment on the benefits of lasting power of attorney:
“The Who generation is grasping the theme of choosing how to die before they get old by actively making their wishes known in a lasting power of attorney. If you willingly sign a power appointing a child, friend or professional to authorise whether you wish to receive treatment and what type of care you want, you are not only saving your children huge sums of money, but also the NHS and local authorities. If you have signed a lasting power of attorney it is clear evidence of your wishes, which a doctor can then refer to on the Do Not Resuscitate form, which (if placed at the front of your medical documents) will ensure these wishes are carried out. There is, of course, a clear balance which advisors need to be conscious of between simply making a monetary decision, and wanting reasonable steps to be taken to ensure people are properly looked after. However, if people are adamant that they have weighed up all the factors, doctors must take their wishes into account.”
However, this system is not fool-proof and can be open to abuse. If the person loses mental capacity before making such an arrangement, their friends or family will have to apply to the Court of Protection to gain the power off attorney themselves. Although the number of lasting power of attorney arrangements registered has increased in recent years, the number of attorneys being investigated under suspicion of fraud or financial mismanagement is also rising. In 2015, 172 attorneys and deputies were removed from the list for this very same reason.
So, when considering how you want to grow old with dignity, make sure you place your future into safe hands.