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Lasting power of attorney, otherwise known as LPA, is a legal document that no one really looks forward to having to put in place. However, not doing so can have long term and serious ramifications for your health, welfare, property and financial affairs.

One thing which many of us have to do at some stage in our lives is to oversee the failing health of our parents. This topic hit home for me and I am now passionate about explaining the ramifications of this to others, because this simple legal document made a big difference

My mum died about four years ago, and my dad is currently in a care home with advanced dementia. In both cases, they took out a Lasting Power of Attorney while they still had mental capacity, and in both cases, it has made things so much easier for those who care for them.

If your parents are still leading full and active lives, it is still worthwhile having the conversation with them as you really never know when things might change. It may be awkward talking about failing health, and death with the older generation, but it really needs to be said, so that you can hear what the older people feel about it, and then take their wishes into consideration when the time comes.

My mum was diagnosed with cancer in late 2014, but she remained active mentally and physically for the first few months of her treatment. We all thought she was beating it, and the doctors thought it was a slow-growing non-aggressive type of cancer.

Then she suddenly felt a change in her body and her system during the May half term and thought there was something wrong – and three weeks later she had a terminal diagnosis was wheelchair bound, had stopped eating and was on serious pain medication that gave her hallucinations. The rapid decline was shocking.

She came to stay with me for a rest, and a week later she was admitted to hospital with an infection. If she did not have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, she would have died in that hospital away from all her friends and support network. She was too frail to be discharged, and too confused to be listened to, and the doctors would just have let her die.

However, because she and I had discussed her wishes and we had lodged the Power of Attorney document, I was able to advocate for her. The hospital had to take my wishes into account, because I had it in writing that these were her wishes.

At my request, they treated her until she was well enough to travel. They organised accompanied ambulance transport for her – over 100 miles to her home. They set up facilities for her on the ground floor at her home and 24-hour care for her.

I was able to take my dear mum home and she spent her last few weeks in familiar surroundings with all her dear friends visiting her daily. Her health rallied for a while when she saw her beautiful house and garden again, and she was able to have deep and meaningful conversations with all the people that were important in her life, including me and my children.

She died knowing she was home, and loved and cared for.

This made such a big difference to her – allowing her to die with dignity, and it also made a difference to me, knowing that I was able to help her to get what she wanted. Without the Lasting Power of Attorney, she would be deemed unable to make that decision and the doctors would have just let her slip away where she was, anxious, alone and confused.

I know when the time comes (when both my children have reached adulthood), I am definitely going to set up an LPA for myself and I will ask my husband to do one too. I have seen for myself what a difference it makes, and you really never know when it will happen to you.

Setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney

It is important to think ahead and have everything you need in place for your future care, while you are still considered able to make these types of decisions.

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When you set up a Lasting Power of Attorney, you are appointing somebody to take complex decisions for you, in the event that you are diagnosed with
a health condition, illness or disability that may reduce or remove your ability to make complex and important decisions for yourself.

This is not a decision to make lightly. The person, or persons, you appoint will be able to make decisions regarding everything from your daily routine, to whether life-sustaining treatment is continued or stopped. They will also have a say over managing your accounts, paying your bills, and possibly paying for continued care by putting your house for sale.

Registering your LPA takes up to 10 weeks with the Office of the Public Guardian and the cost for the registration of a Lasting Power of Attorney at the time of writing this is £82. However, it is advised that you seek legal support in appointing and setting up your lasting power of attorney.

This means that there may be additional costs, which depends on the solicitors you choose to use. While an LPA is generally considered to be ongoing, this is not necessarily the case. They can also be enacted for a short period of time to allow for complete recovery from an accident, to support you through a difficult time, or simply because you are out of the country for an extended period of time.

Do You Need Solicitors For Your LPA?

You can, of course, complete your lasting power of attorney and file it with the Office of the Public Guardian by yourself. But, just because you can, does not mean it is a good idea. There are numerous reasons why the support of an LPA solicitor with the right expertise, is the best way forward.

Firstly, they can advise on the type of LPA you need, and how many attorneys you should appoint. In England and Wales, you can appoint up to four. The number you need will depend in part in your confidence in the people you appoint to come up with the best solutions for your welfare and financial security.

For example, you may trust your partner to make the right decisions regarding your health, but have concerns over their ability to make the best financial decisions, in which case you may ask another relative to have this responsibility.

Your solicitors are also there to support you, should anyone object to the attorneys you have chosen, or call into question your current mental capacities. It is important that you can show that you have the mental capacity to make these decisions, and if this is questioned an experienced solicitor will be able to help.

So, in conclusion, I would encourage anyone to talk about Lasting Power of Attorney for the older members of their family, or for themselves. It’s a tricky conversation, but can ultimately bring so much peace.

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