Health & wellbeing

Roger Davies on the vital role of Lasting Power of Attorney

10 Jun 2024 | Written by Marina O'Shea

The Joy Club member Roger Davies shares his family’s experiences around later life care for their family, and the importance of obtaining the Lasting Power of Attorney.

When I began writing, somebody told me to make sure I was writing to my audience. Here at The Joy Club, I am certain about one thing, none of us are in the first flush of youth. (Except maybe the permanent staff.) So this means that most of us are in the same boat. Something that affects one of us is likely to affect all of us. Last summer things came to a head for my family and my mother passed away.

It was to be expected, she was after all 96 and was very frail. I suppose it all started back in about 2019. At the time mother was living in a council bungalow which backed on to the bottom of my sister’s garden. My father had passed away many years ago and mother liked the freedom of living in her own place with the security of family nearby. She had some difficulties remembering things but coped well for a lady of such advanced years. Then one day she collapsed and was rushed into hospital.

Technically she was diagnosed with a severe chest infection and was duly “cured” but this is when it all went wrong. The hospital deemed that she was not fit enough to go straight home and all the convalescent beds were full, so she had to stay in the medical ward for months; she was eventually found a place in a cottage hospital just outside the city. Her mental capability seemed to decline in proportion to the time spent away from home. By now she was in the hands of the bureaucrats. She was falling down the cracks between the physio team, her GPs, social services, the council housing department and the NHS. No-one seemed to be able to take charge and the different departments certainly did not seem able to communicate.

Eventually we were able to get her a place in a local nursing home, which pleased the NHS, the physios and her GP’s. But social services and the council were not over the moon because she was now costing them money. Whenever there was a major decision to be made and her primary carer, my sister Denise, tried to have an input she was immediately asked “Do you have Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)”? When she answered no they would not take too much notice of her. They wanted to speak to mother. We were now into Covid times and social services would/could not visit mother in the nursing home and insisted on phoning her. Mother was stone deaf and hated her hearing aids. She could not remember where she was or anything to do with her bungalow, which she was still paying all the bills for. The council would not let my sister cancel the tenancy because mother had to do it herself. These phone conversations were tragically comic, with a lot of shouting and mother replying “What, What, WHAT”.

Talk about “Catch 22”. It was now too late to get an LPA because to do this mother had to be certified as competent to issue it and she certainly wasn’t. So, my sister struggled on battling for common sense to take over and eventually in early 2023, four years after the first illness, all the relevant departments finally came together and worked out a health plan and mother was permanently placed in the nursing home and her bungalow was handed back to the council.

Of all the bureaucratic stuff and nonsense possibly, the worst was the regular utilities, they would not speak to my sister but insisted on talking to mother to cancel their supplies. In the end Denise had to go to the home, phone up the utility company put them on speaker phone and tell mother when to say “YES” loudly.

Then, that summer it all seemed so irrelevant when mum passed away quietly in her sleep. Now Denise was able to finally sort out all the outstanding little issues. It appears that a death certificate trumps an LPA. One thing this saga did was clarify that if we need to avoid problems like this, for us, as we grow older, an LPA is a must. I was going to be an attorney for my wife, and she would be mine. As backup we both were going to use my daughters as well.  So, I contacted them and started to go about getting LPAs in place for both me and Joyce.  As they live in Cardiff and London I decided to have a family reunion weekend of it. The daughters come for a BBQ and party, and we would have a signing session on the Saturday first.

It turns out that there are two types of LPA. One for financial decisions and one for health decisions so for complete peace of mind we decided to go for both. I started off by using my friend google and was inundated by offers to make my life easy by having professional companies send me the forms and advice. They only wanted a few hundred pounds to do this. I eventually found the official government web site where I could do it for myself for free. (There is an official registration fee of £82 per document.) This is The Office of the Public Guardian – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) from here we were able to get the forms and guides on how to fill them in. The two forms you need are LP1F for the financial LPA and LP1H for the health LPA.

Both forms come in a format that can be filled in and registered online but I realise quite quickly that for us not to make any mistakes I was going to opt for a hybrid solution. I downloaded the forms onto my PC in a PDF format and filled in all the data, names, addresses, dates of birth etc. then printed out the documents to sign them. There is a lot of signing to be done. Each form has twenty pages, and it is compulsory to print out and return the complete document.

There are four classes of people that are in involved in signing the documents. First is the Donor, the person who is giving the Lasting Power of Attorney, then there are the attorneys, the ones who are receiving the LPA. Next the Certificate Provider, this person must certify that you, the donor, understand what you are doing. Lastly you must have someone witness the signatures, this cannot be you or your chosen attorneys. I used the certificate provider to witness the signatures.

As we had two full sets of forms for both of us, that was 4 forms and 80 pages with lots of people signing different pages multiple times. So, I resorted to all of us sitting around the dining table and had post it notes attached to the pages with who had to sign on each one.

Most of the pages were straight forward till we came to the health PLA, preferences and instructions. My wife is a retired ICU nurse and I think she would be fairly relaxed about switching off any machine I was attached to. Me, I am a fighter and would want to hang on. However, after reading the instructions and the warning about using the correct legal language, we agreed that this page could be left blank.

Another point I noticed is where you have more than one attorney, they can either be set up where all must agree a decision jointly or they can be set up where any one of them can make it. In my opinion go for separate decision makers. Then if any one of your attorneys ceases to be the others can continue to make decisions without starting from scratch and registering new forms.

In the end it all went well, and the four sets of forms were posted off in April. The government has cashed the four checks to cover the registrations and we are now waiting for the certificates of attorney to arrive back. (I suspect it may be some time.) All in all, it went well. I got some family time with my daughters and now when I go GaGa they will have less of a problem dealing with bureaucracy.