Most of us are vaguely aware of what a lasting power of attorney (LPA) does. It lets someone else make decisions for you when you’re not able to do it yourself. Fewer people know that there are two types of LPA. Below, we’ll be looking at the health power of attorney. Let’s get started!

 

What is a ‘health’ power of attorney?

A health power of attorney lets you give someone you trust the legal power to make decisions about your medical treatment and general day-to-day care.

Unlike a financial LPA, it will only kick in when you’re not able to make decisions yourself. For example, if you’re in an accident and fall into a coma, or if you develop a condition that affects your mind (such as dementia). 

Other names for the health power of attorney include medical power of attorney and health and welfare power of attorney. Its official name is the lasting power of attorney for health and welfare.

 

What is a health care power of attorney for?

Statistics suggest that 1.6 million people in the UK will be living with dementia by 2040. 

The prospect is daunting. But making a health and welfare power of attorney means that someone who knows and loves you will be able to take charge of your care and speak up on your behalf if something like that happens. It also lets you leave instructions, so it’s clear how you’d like to be taken care of. 

 

What decisions will my attorney be able to make with a health power of attorney?

People often think that you only make this type of power of attorney for medical decisions. But it actually goes a bit further than that.

Your health power of attorney lets a trusted family member or friend decide:

  • Where you’ll live while you’re being looked after
  • Your day-to-day routine: your diet, what you’ll wear and what you’ll do during the day
  • Hygiene — they can advise carers on how often you like to wash and how
  • Who will look after you. (At home? In care?)
  • And, yes, medical treatment

Remember: everything your attorney does has to be in your best interest. And they can only make decisions about the things you can’t — they don’t get wholesale control of your life. 

 

What about saying yes or no to life sustaining treatment?

Life sustaining treatment is medical care that will keep you from dying. It might be a life-saving operation, or ‘life support’ machinery to breathe for you. But it could be as simple as antibiotics for a bad case of pneumonia.

You can (optionally) give your attorney the ability to make decisions about these treatments for you. 

If you do, your attorney still has to:

  • Act in your best interest
  • Follow any instructions you’ve left about your preferences (either in the LPA itself or through a living will, etc)
  • Listen to the advice of your doctors

Medical staff can override your attorney’s decision and treat you if they think your attorney is ignoring the above.

Are you or is your attorney worried about them getting medical power of attorney decisions wrong? That’s understandable. Luckily, you can make an LPA for health and welfare without giving them this particular power. 

 

Will my attorney be able to access my money with a health LPA?

No — that’s the financial LPA. But if you need something to make you happy, your attorney can ask whoever is looking after your money for some of it to spend on you. 

Again, it has to be in your best interest. So, it might be for things like:

  • New clothes or a haircut
  • If you move into care, decorating your new room to make it feel like home
  • Someone to help out so you can go on trips or visit friends more

 

How to get a health care power of attorney set up

Before you can make a health power of attorney, you need to make a few decisions:

  • Your attorney(s): who would you like to make decisions for you?
  • Your replacement attorney(s): if your attorney isn’t available, who should take their place?
  • Decision making: if you’ve chosen more than one attorney or replacement, how would you like them to make decisions: jointly, separately, or a mixture of the two?
  • People to notify: is there anyone who should know about your LPA before it goes into effect?
  • Certificate provider: is there a doctor, social worker or old friend who can vouch for your state of mind?
  • Preferences: what would you like your attorney to think about when they’re making decisions for you?
  • Instructions: is there anything your attorney absolutely must or must not do?
  • Life sustaining treatment: would you like your attorney to have the ability to make decisions about medical treatments to prolong your life?

Once you know what you want, the next steps are:

  1. Fill out the government’s health power of attorney form
  2. Get it signed by the people involved (in the right order)
  3. Send the form to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) to register it (with a fee)

The form for getting a health and welfare power of attorney is complicated. It’s especially hard if you have preferences or instructions for your attorney, as the wrong wording can inadvertently make it hard for them to act. If you’re unsure about anything at all, it’s important to get guidance to help you make sure you’re doing everything properly. 

Soon, Beyond will launch a guided online power of attorney service to help you make a health LPA at home. Until then, it’s a good idea to get the form looked over by a solicitor.

 

Find out more about making a health power of attorney

If you’d like more lasting power of attorney for health and welfare guidance, take a look at our overall power of attorney guide here.

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