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 Phyllis.firstname.lastname@example.org . 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. www.publicguardian-scotland.gov.uk/power-of-attorney/power-of-attorney/the-power
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