Health and Welfare Powers of Attorney will have added significance following the proposed improved care guidelines.
An independent review of patients experiencing palliative and end of life care has made significant recommendations for improvements to the approach adopted by medical professionals, clinicians and other care staff.
The Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient was designed to replicate the standard of care for dying patients in hospices within the hospital sector. However, this approach has been labelled a "tick-box method" that insufficiently meets patients' and families' needs.
The new guidelines state that those caring for patients with terminal illnesses or at the end of their lives should adopt a personalised, communicative approach, favouring shared decisions between staff, relatives and patients when appropriate.
What does this mean for patients who already have a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney in place?
A Health and Welfare Power of Attorney gives one or more trusted persons the ability to make decisions on your behalf in relation to your care, treatment and day-to-day wellbeing, if you are unable to do so yourself. The Power of Attorney can be registered straight away while you still have full mental capacity. This means that if the unfortunate time comes when you are unable to make decisions in relation to your own care and treatment, the Power can be used immediately by your appointed attorney(s).
In light of the new guidance, patients receiving palliative care who have a registered Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney in place should be reassured that the medical professionals and carers will be focusing more on consulting their attorneys before deciding what is in a patient's best interest.
The aim of the new approach is described as putting "the patients, their relatives and carers first, treating them with dignity and respect". As such, a patient who has a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney in place can rest assured that their attorneys, being their chosen family members, friends or representatives, will be able to make their wishes known.
Future proofing your best interests
Terminal illnesses are unpredictable and can sadly strike at any time, devastating families and loved ones. However, as Lasting Powers of Attorney are prepared and registered while you have full mental capacity you can choose in advance who you want to make decisions in relation to your care. This means that you can plan ahead and discuss your wishes for future treatment and care, reassured that when the time comes your chosen representatives will make your wishes known.
Health and Welfare Powers of Attorney therefore offer you a way to safeguard your future interests in the unfortunate event that you become seriously ill or unable to deal with your own affairs.
By appointing an attorney or attorneys under a Health and Welfare LPA, you are ensuring that the loved-ones you have chosen and trust will be those your carers, clinicians and medical staff will talk to before determining your best interests.
For more information about Lasting Powers of Attorney, please contact Ashfords' Trusts and Estates Team who will be able to assist you.