According to the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, 41,740 people and 50,000 carers in Ireland are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia illness. Current figures suggest that within 20 years the number of people affected will have doubled. A recent study has shown that more than 2,500 people in Belfast alone are living with dementia.
As the law currently stands, people who develop Alzheimer’s disease cannot decide in advance what medical treatment they wish to receive. In June 2012 the Advanced Healthcare Decisions Bill was passed to the second stage in the Dáil. The “Living Wills” Bill, if enacted, would give people the freedom to determine, in advance, the treatment they wish to receive if they become terminally ill or incapacitated and unable to communicate. A person with a dementia related illness will live for an average of four to eight years, depending on their age at diagnosis, but over time will lose the capacity to make decisions for themselves. If the “Living Wills” Bill is enacted people can decide now what medical treatment they would, or would not, wish to receive in the event of them not being able to make that decision
None of us know what is around the corner and none of us would like to think of ourselves as being a burden on our families or loved ones. Should the Living Wills Bill be enacted it will be a major step forward in terms of caring for patients with dementia related illnesses. This Bill will allow patients to essentially create a living Will setting out their wishes and advising how they would like their care arrangements to be. It allows us to plan for the unforeseeable and allows patients to keep their medical care in their own hands whatever the circumstances.
While the Living Wills Bill makes provisions for how a person’s healthcare is dealt with Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA) are living wills insofar as how a person’s property is dealt with and this is an area which people can currently plan for.
If someone becomes incapacitated through disability, illness or a progressive degenerative disease their assets could potentially be frozen. To avoid this situation a person, while in good health, should create an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA). The Power of Attorney only takes effect when a person becomes mentally incapacitated. In the event of the Donors incapacity to deal with his/her money and assets the Power of Attorney transfers authority to look after the money and assets to the Attorney, once certain steps are taken. The Donor is not prevented from dealing with his/her money and assets by creating the EPA, this only happens if the Donor becomes mentally incapacitated.
An Enduring Power of Attorney is as important as your Will, but many people place more emphasis on the latter. The Enduring Power of Attorney will prevent a situation arising where money and assets become frozen as friends and family members struggle to cope with the stresses and demands that comes with illness.