UK 'Incapacity crisis' approaches as dementia incidence outruns powers of attorney
The SFE report shows that the number of people diagnosed with dementia in the UK increased by more than 50 per cent in the 11 years from 2005/6 to 2016/17, and now stands at 540,000. When undiagnosed cases are added in, the number is estimated to be closer to 850,000. That will rise rapidly in the next decade, probably reaching a million diagnosed cases by 2025, plus another 300,000 undiagnosed. Of the 12.8 million British residents over the age of 65, one in 14 will develop dementia, says SFE.
SFE's principle concern in the report is not the financial affairs of people who lose capacity, but their future care arrangements. Its partner in the study, the Centre for Future Studies, found that only 928,000 health and welfare (H&W) LPAs have been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) in England and Wales. The implication, it says, is that there are 12 million people at significant risk of dementia who have not made proper arrangements for their care in old age.
Moreover, says the report, this gap is likely to widen. By 2025, on current trends there will be only 2.2 million H&W LPAs in place, leaving 13.2 million people unprepared for a loss of mental capacity. There is, says SFE, a 'huge disparity between our wishes and what will happen in reality' – largely because people are unaware of the risks.
SFE is calling for a significant increase in the take-up of H&W LPAs to match the boom taking place in financial LPAs. 'The taboo around medical decisions and end of life care needs to be broken and H&W LPAs should be a topic of discussion around any dinner table', it urges.
'Nothing offers more protection and control than putting an H&W LPA in place', says the organisation. 'Conversations [with relatives] are important, but it's also necessary to set out what you want in writing. Even creating an email trail with key decisions will help, but the best way to do this is to formalise your wishes in an H&W LPA. This eliminates doubt and gives legal validity to your choices.'
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