A leading West Midlands lawyer has applauded newsreader Angela Rippon’s public revelation that she has edited her will to help her loved ones make decisions about her future care needs.
Annabel Kay, a solicitor at Higgs & Sons, is a member of Solicitors for the Elderly and sits on the expert panel for the Association of Dementia Studies at Worcester University.
“It is encouraging to see someone as well-known as Angela Rippon talking openly about her fear of developing dementia and the measures she has taken to prepare for such an eventuality by outlining her preferences while she is still able to make those decisions,” said Annabel.
“One of the most stressful situations faced by families is being forced to make decisions on behalf of someone who is no longer able to do so for themselves.
“Where there are no prior plans in place, making the right choices for an elderly or mentally incapacitated relative can be a daunting prospect and there is always the fear that decisions are not what their loved one would have wanted.
“That is one reason for a rise in people making lasting powers of attorney for property and financial and health matters. We are also seeing an increase in the number of ‘living wills’ now referred to as advance healthcare directives where people are able to set out how they would want to be treated or cared for in certain situations, should they become unable to make or communicate their preferences in the future.”
Advanced directives are statements which express the individual’s preferences such as where the person would want to be cared for and who they would want consulted on their care.
The document can also outline whether there are some medical treatments the person would not want to receive.
Annabel added: “If an advanced directive has been drawn up, those providing your treatment must take your preferences into account when they are determining the best course of action for your care.
“They are only used if your circumstances change, such as in the case of advanced dementia when you are no longer able to make or communicate your wishes and can also set out your choice to refuse treatment, even if this could lead to your death
“With such crucial choices being expressed in the advanced directive, it is important to discuss the contents of the document with friends and family, your health care team and your legal adviser.
Annabel is keen to stress however that a diagnosis of dementia shouldn’t be seen as the beginning of the end of an individual’s autonomy and freedom.
“It is undoubtedly frightening to confront any disease associated with getting older. However a diagnosis of dementia doesn’t mean a person can’t have a happy and fulfilling life for many years after. I believe it is important to recognise that when discussing these vital issues.”
The care and capacity team at Higgs & Sons regularly deals with individuals and families coming to terms with changes in personal circumstances through illness or accident, assisting individuals on advance directives and other important considerations such as Powers of Attorney, making a will or funding care needs.
Annabel added: “At Higgs & Sons we understand that it is often difficult for individuals to find the time to put their personal affairs in order, and doing so can often seem a low priority when dealing with pressing medical issues.
“With this in mind, we will tailor our approach to suit your needs and those of your family. We can take your instructions in whatever way best suits you; at your home or by phone, video conference or in person at our offices.”
If you would like more information, please contact Annabel Kay on 0345 111 5050.
Higgs & Sons boasts more than 100 specialist lawyers at its office on the Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill.