This month Giles Meyers, Interim CEO at Carers Trust, discusses the importance of LPAs for carers.
Carers Trust works to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems.
When we ask carers what they worry about most, they often reply “What will happen in the future?” Despite this, not enough carers and those they care for take the relatively simple step of making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). An LPA can be vital as it gives the carer the capacity to act in the best interests of the person they care for if they lose capacity to make decisions for themselves.
In a recent YouGov survey, commissioned by Carers Trust, 82% of respondents had not made an LPA. Of those who had made provisions, few realised the importance of having both a ‘Property and Financial Affairs’ LPA, which gives someone the power to act on your behalf to make decisions about your property and financial affairs; and a 'Health and Welfare' LPA, which means that someone else has the power to make decisions about your personal welfare and healthcare when you are unable to do so.
Carers have spoken of their concerns that completing an LPA can be complicated, time consuming and expensive. While it is true that it takes a little time and there is a cost involved, carers have told us that the benefits outweigh the cost in time, money and stress later on. OPG has recently reduced the cost of registering an LPA and people on low incomes can apply for an exemption or reduction of the full fee.
Carer speaking about their experience; “This [LPA] should be a priority right at the start. Without a lasting power of attorney you cannot do anything. Everyone should be informed about both types of LPA, financial and health, from their 40th birthday. It was too late to get power of attorney by the time diagnosis was given to Dad, which caused problems and financial hardship. We were unable to access his savings account when he needed a ramp to get outside, and had to use a credit card for expenses which, obviously, cost more.”
Having an LPA in place to appoint a carer as an attorney for the person they care for has vital practical, as well as emotional, implications. It allows the carer to carry out the wishes of the person they care for when it comes to their treatment and care, gives access to the person’s finances to pay for equipment, adaptations and formal support; as well as helping to safeguard against fraud. Having an LPA in place helps to include the carer and enables them to feel more confident in what may at first feel like an overwhelming situation, such as making decisions about residential care and end of life care.
A health and welfare LPA can’t be used until it’s proven that the person has lost mental capacity. A property and finance LPA can either be used when a person has lost mental capacity, or while a person still has capacity, with their permission, e.g. if they would like somebody to collect their benefits/pension or pay their bills on their behalf.
“My husband and I discussed everything when he first had a diagnosis, we recorded his wishes and put an LPA in place before he lost the capacity to make decisions. It gives me such peace of mind; I know what he would want and it means the family and professionals are also aware, therefore, there are no problems” (Carer)
If you would like to find out more, Carers Trust, in partnership with Sitra and Care Charts UK, have developed a free guide to the Mental Capacity Act for carers which gives more information about Lasting Powers of Attorney. There is also information on Carers Trust website here about the application process. Help is available from your local carers’ service which you can find by entering your postcode here.