Most people in the UK are putting their future well-being at risk by neglecting to make legal preparations for their old age, according to a new report.
The research shows that Britain is experiencing a ‘dementia crisis’, with an estimated 13 million people unprepared for the possibility that they may be suffering from some form of mental incapacity by 2025.
The research was carried out by the Centre for Future Studies. Several charities and organisations, including Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE), the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK and Dying Matters have drawn upon the findings to highlight the dangers we may face as the population ages.
For example, only a small proportion of people have registered Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA). These are documents that allow you to nominate someone to make decisions on your behalf if you lose mental capacity at some point in the future.
Currently in England and Wales there are 928,000 registered LPAs. However, there are 12.8 million people aged 65 or over who are in the high-risk demographic for dementia.
In the last ten years, the number of people diagnosed with dementia has risen by 54%. The illness was responsible for 12% of deaths in 2016 making it the biggest cause of death in England and Wales.
Nearly 75% of the population are worried about dementia and fear the loss of capacity to make decisions for themselves.
The report also reveals that a third of people in the UK have not made any preparation for old age including making a will, saving for retirement, paying into a pension, creating a lasting power of attorney or making plans for their funeral.
A key problem is that people feel uneasy discussing what they feel is a ‘taboo’ subject.
Lakshmi Turner, chief executive of SFE, said: “Most of us do not like thinking about, let alone talking about, death, disability or disease, even though it touches all our lives — but it is essential that we do so.
“At a time of crisis, families have to make huge decisions about a loved one quickly, while under a massive amount of stress, without knowing their wishes.”
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a professor of palliative medicine, told the Times newspaper: “When a person loses capacity to take decisions, it is sad to see families and professionals struggling to try to determine what a person would have wanted. Delays and distress can be avoided by appointing someone to speak for you when you can no longer speak up for yourself.”
Another problem is that many people misunderstand how the law works. The report reveals that 65% of those surveyed believe that that they can leave decisions to their next of kin. This would not necessarily be the case so people need to take legal steps to be sure that a person they trust is put in charge of important decisions. The best way to do that is to register an LPA.
Please contact us if you would like more information about registering a Lasting Power of Attorney to protect your interests as you get older.