Be Prepared ….Have the Power by Graham Abrines

I think all of us would agree that making informed decisions for ourselves or others is one of the most responsible and indeed worthwhile things we do on a regular basis. It’s something we largely take for granted.

It’s only when matters begin to stray from the norm that we question our or others ability to make informed decisions. How many of us have parents, aunt’s uncle’s, partners even whose steady decline is becoming increasingly evident? Bring that same question into the professional arena; it will be more relevant for some than others, watching patients who you may have known for some time or perhaps only just met who are just struggling to make informed decisions.

Having conversations with people, whatever the context, about their wishes around how they want to be supported when they are not in a position to make informed decisions is important. It’s important for a whole raft of reason. The primary one for me; knowing how that person wants to be treated, cared for and supported  when they are unable to make informed decisions for themselves!

That’s why we all need to be better prepared

The message is quite simple if you have family members, patients or even yourself, who haven’t yet thought about how they would like to be supported if they lose the ability to make informed decisions for themselves then now is a good time to consider doing something about it.

Power of Attorney (POA) allows people, whilst they still have full decision making capacity, to state how they want to be treated and who and it can be more than one person, should be making decisions on their behalf when they are no longer able to do so. Quite simply it takes away many of the dilemmas that families and on occasion clinicians find themselves in when deciding what or what not to do in supporting the person.

There are some patients across our hospital settings, who with no POA  in place, require  an application by a family member or the local authority  for a Guardianship Order which is required to be heard in the Sheriff Court  to establish who should be making those informed decisions on their behalf. Take a moment; if that was you, or somebody you knew how does that make you feel? Particularly if you know there was an easier alternative where the person’s wishes were fully known?

POA is a legal process and the POA documents need to be very clear and detail the powers the adult proposes to grant to the prospective attorney/s.  As it’s a legal process involving a solicitor at an early point may be useful and most local solicitors should be able to assist in the drafting of a POA and can provide legal advice on this matter. A solicitor will charge a fee for this service.

Over the next number of weeks the Health & Social Care Partnership, via work within the Delayed Discharge Partnership, Local Authority Communications Unit & Local Authority legal services will be running a media campaign on local radio & TV supported via other methods, buses, bus shelters, flyers & local newspapers to encourage people to think about Power of Attorney.

Many of the local solicitors across our whole region, who are fully supportive of this approach will give a 10% discount to anyone wanting to progress with a POA until the end of June.

If you require further information, please contact Phyllis Wright, Regional  Statutory Mental Health Team Manager  on 03033333001 or .  The Office of the Public Guardian in Scotland registers continuing and/or welfare powers of attorney under the terms of the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000, and their website offers full information on the POA process.

So please, for everyone’s benefit   …. Be prepared and Have the Power of Attorney in place.

Graham Abrines is Interim General Manager Community Health and Social Care

4 thoughts on “Be Prepared ….Have the Power by Graham Abrines

  1. A very important issue Graham. POA can contribute to good end of life care, along with thinking about what one might want in certain health circumstances – a living will. Given that solicitors charge for assisting with these, there may well be a health inequalities effect with better off people putting these in place and disadvantaged people perhaps missing out. Wonder if there are any voluntary organisations that can help people with POA if cost is a barrier?

  2. Thank you Graham this is such an important area to hilight. Unfortunately many don’t understand the need for POA. It’s as important as a Will if not more so, if you need a POA you will need it before a will!

    Historically, Health and Social care professionals were willing to accept ‘next of kin’ status as enough to allow those named to inform of decisions/ sign off on decisions for the person receiving care etc. No longer can this happen, POA must be in place. Indeed there is no such legal status ‘next of kin’. Unfortunately, this is not known to our community , hence this media campaign.

    I would also hilight the need for all ages to consider this. Our young military personnel are recommended to have this in place, obviously a higher risk, but in modern life none of us know what is in front of us. It is sad to know that loss of speech or ability to communicate through written word etc, even if you have capacity to make decisions, is all too common in many conditions. Again having a POA is essential in this circumstance- this is not all about a Dementia, although again important to remember the increased number of people affected by these awful conditions.

    From personal experience I would also recommend the consideration of having a younger person (next generation) as a POA as well as someone in your age bracket ie you spouse/ partner etc . Unfortunately we can’t decide in a relationship who goes first, or indeed whether we will ‘go’ together or close together and this can cause complications.

    I know this sounds all doom and gloom, it’s not meant to. I look at this as simply as having a life insurance ir house insurance policy. This us a decision making policy, knowing that someone I trust will make the right decisions, the ones I would have made – is all important to me.
    How important us it to you?

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