The one thing most of us have now, which we don’t usually have is time. We could use this time to reflect, discuss with those close to us and then write down what we would want or not want should we ever be unable to make decisions for ourselves. None of us know what life may bring, but it is usual to make plans for many of life’s ‘what ifs’ – we take out house insurance, travel insurance and we make our wills. What if our health changes such that we cannot make our own decisions, for example due to a serious stroke, an accident, life-limiting illness or advancing dementia? If we have thought about how we would like to be treated, discussed this with relevant people and then written down our conclusions, then this information can be used if we are no longer able to say what we want and don’t want.
This process is known as ‘advance care planning’. Other terms are sometimes used, for example ‘anticipatory care’, ‘living will’ and ‘advance decisions’.
You can formalise some aspects of advance care planning, for example, refusing treatment in advance and giving someone the power to make decisions for you, should you ever be unable to do this. This authority or power is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). Find out more…..
This must be written down in the correct way, on the correct forms and then be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. Many solicitors will offer this service, but it is possible to do it without legal advice, provided you follow the correct process. Did you know that your ‘next of kin’ cannot make decisions for you? A person who is your ‘next of kin’ does not automatically have this authority, but you can designate a person of your choosing to be ‘consulted’, should you be unable to make decisions for yourself. This person does not have to be related to you, but as with LPA, it must be someone you trust. The detail is set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
This Covid-19 pandemic may not be the time for knee-jerk reactions. However, what has been emphasised is that blanket directions, for example ‘Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation’ should not be used for a whole client group, but should be assessed for each individual.
So now it could be a good use of this extra time to find out more about advance care planning. We can then put in place plans to deal with the ‘what ifs’ in terms of our health and wellbeing. This helps us have more control of what happens to us, at a time when our ability to decide is reduced. To use an expression of the not too distant past – advance care planning can help you bring back control!