The importance of being prepared

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I recently had a situation arise with clients of mine which highlighted the benefits of having a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in place.

Mrs Jones had been living with dementia for a number of years, and had reached the stage where she was unable to make any medical or care decisions for herself. This was not an issue whilst Mrs Jones was living at home with her husband Mr Jones, who was caring for her, but it did give rise to a problem when Mrs Jones went to hospital.

At the point of being discharged from hospital, the NHS team involved with Mrs Jones wanted to discharge her to a care home. However, this went completely against the wishes of Mr Jones who wanted to continue to care for his wife at home. Given that Mrs Jones did not have the mental capacity to decide where she would live after her stay in hospital, there were only two options: first, the NHS team would decide after “consulting” with Mr Jones; or, second, a Health & Welfare Attorney would decide on Mrs Jones’ behalf. On this occasion, the NHS team had consulted with Mr Jones but did not agree with his views, and so said that Mrs Jones would be moving to a care home. As it happened, Mr and Mrs Jones had each appointed the other and their son as their Attorneys in a Health & Welfare LPA, and so this took the power away from the NHS team, and Mrs Jones was able to return home.

This situation illustrates the importance of a Health & Welfare LPA for day-to-day decisions as well as for decisions which might relate to life-sustaining treatment.