Power Of Attorney And Care Homes: What You Need To Know
April 27th, 2022
Power of attorney can be a daunting world to navigate if it’s brand new to you, and it’s something that often comes up when you, or a parent or older relative is moving into a care home.
The transition to residential care should come with an acknowledgement that circumstances may change in the future, and that mental capacity may start to decline. This means it’s important to think about who will manage important decisions on everything from medical treatment to financial affairs, which is what power of attorney is all about.
Read on to find out what power of attorney is, when it can be used, and how it can work when you or a loved one live in a care home in our lasting power of attorney guide.
What Is Power Of Attorney?
Power of attorney – sometimes referred to as lasting power of attorney or LPA – is a legal agreement that allows you to appoint a person or people to make decisions on your behalf when you can no longer do so for yourself.
Your appointed attorneys may need to make decisions about:
- The day-to-day handling of your bank account
- Your finances and other assets
- Selling your property
- Your personal and medical care
- Whether you need to move into a care home
Power of attorney may need to be used if your mental capacity declines, for example after a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis, or if you find yourself unable to do things for yourself after an accident.
Your attorney could be a spouse or partner, child, grandchild, sibling, close friend, or even someone in a professional capacity, such as a solicitor – you just need to make sure they’re over 18 and are someone you trust.
To enter into a power of attorney agreement, you must be of sound mental capacity. This means you need to have an awareness and understanding of the decisions you’re making, and their potential consequences and results – a doctor can assess whether or not this is the case.
If you change your mind about your power of attorney agreement, it can be cancelled at any time, and you can make a new agreement if you ever need to.
The Different Types Of Power Of Attorney
Depending on your circumstances, you may require a different type of power of attorney. You’ll see three key different terms used in relation to power of attorney:
1. Ordinary Power Of Attorney
Ordinary power of attorney is only valid if you still have good mental capacity, and it’s designed to be used temporarily, for example if you need decisions made for you during a hospital stay.
Setting up an ordinary power of attorney can provide you with peace of mind when you need it most, as you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your affairs are being managed by someone you trust.
2. Lasting Power Of Attorney (LPA)
If you’re worried that your mental capacity may decline in the future, you need a lasting power of attorney, which is a permanent order. There are two types of LPA:
- Health and welfare: for decisions about personal care, medical treatment, and moving into a care home
- Property and finance: for decisions about benefits, pensions, bank accounts, property, and other financial assets
If you’ve already received an early diagnosis for dementia, you may still be able to enter into a power of attorney agreement. However, you may need to consult your doctor as part of the process, as they’ll be able to determine whether you have the mental capacity to do so.
3. Enduring Power Of Attorney
Enduring power of attorney is what lasting power of attorney was known as before 1st October 2007. If your agreement was signed before this date, it will still be valid, but you may hear it now referred to as an LPA.
How To Set Up A Power of Attorney Agreement
When you’re thinking about who you’d like to assign power of attorney to, the number one factor to consider is whether you trust the person you have in mind. You need to know that they have your best interests at heart, and you should also think about how they manage their own affairs, and whether they’re happy to take on this responsibility.
Make sure you have a thorough discussion about the situation and what it will involve; explain why you’re considering them, give them the chance to ask any questions, and don’t pressure them into accepting if they have any reservations. What’s more, if you’re appointing more than one attorney, discuss whether you’d prefer them to always make decisions on your behalf together, or if you don’t mind them acting separately.
Bear in mind that you should set up a power of attorney agreement even if you’re married; your spouse won’t automatically have the right to access your bank account or pension if you’re unable to do so yourself, which many married couples aren’t aware of.
Once you’ve chosen your attorney(s), you don’t need to appoint a solicitor, but you will need to follow the below steps:
- Fill out the appropriate power of attorney form on the UK government website
- Register your LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian (this can take up to 20 weeks)
- Pay the appropriate fee – it costs £82 to register a health and welfare or property and finance LPA, so if you’re setting up agreements for both, the total cost will be £164
Sara McGrigor, private client senior associate at DMH Stallard, explains: “Arguably, there is no wrong time to put an LPA in place, and any person over 18 should have them. Having said that, in practice, people tend to wait until they are in their mid to late 50s. In my opinion, they should be thought of as akin to an insurance policy.
“If someone does not have a financial LPA in place and they then lose capacity, it will be very difficult to manage their finances and there will be a delay (and potential financial issues, such as late payment of bills/debts accruing) whilst an application is made for a deputy to be appointed by the court. In addition, the deputy will not necessarily be who the person would have chosen had they made an LPA.”
When Should Power Of Attorney Be Used?
Power of attorney can be used as soon as it’s registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, with your permission.
Typically, power of attorney is used when someone can no longer make decisions about their own welfare or assets, for example after an accident or following a dementia diagnosis.
Sometimes, power of attorney only needs to be used on a temporary basis, such as if you’re in hospital and need help paying your bills.
Meanwhile, lasting power of attorney could be used to make decisions about the following:
- Medical treatment – for example, if you require life-saving treatment but aren’t able to make the decision for yourself, your attorney may be consulted on your behalf
- Your daily routine – your attorney may become involved in decisions about your diet, and whether you need help performing tasks such as washing and dressing if needed
- Financial matters – your chosen attorney could be responsible for collecting your pension, paying your bills, or collecting benefits on your behalf
- Bank or building society payments – an attorney can manage payments in and out of your bank account on your behalf, which is why you need to make sure you’re appointing someone you 100% trust
- Selling property – if you need to sell your home and move to a smaller, more accessible property or even into a care home, your attorney can make decisions about its sale on your behalf
- Moving into a care home – if you no longer have the mental capacity to make plans for your own future care, your appointed attorney can find a care home for you, and consult with staff about your needs
How Does Power Of Attorney Work When Someone Is In A Care Home?
The subject of power of attorney will usually come up when you or a loved one are moving into a care home, often prompted by the care home provider. Staff will want to make sure they understand residents’ preferences, so they can help to provide the right support in the future.
Ways that power of attorney could be beneficial when you’re living in a care home include:
- It may help to have someone else managing your bank account if you can’t get to the bank as often anymore
- If you need your property selling after you’ve moved into residential care, it may help to have an appointed person managing your affairs who can handle everything from viewings to offers
- Setting up a power of attorney agreement before moving into a care home can be sensible long-term planning; if you’re no longer able to make decisions for yourself in the future, it can help to appoint someone you trust and who has your best interests at heart to make decisions on your behalf in advance
If you’re worried at any point about the decisions being made on your behalf by your attorney, you can contact the Office of the Public Guardian to register your concerns. The body is responsible for monitoring allegations of mistreatment and fraud to make sure the power of attorney system works as it should.
What Does Power Of Attorney Mean Day-To-Day?
Day-to-day, if you remain of sound mental capacity, you may not need to think about your power of attorney after moving into a care home.
The only times you may need to think about it are if you need money withdrawing from your bank or a bill paying at the post office and need someone else to do this on your behalf. Many of these types of tasks can now be done online, so you may not even need to worry about this.
However, if/when your mental capacity begins to decline, it can help to know that your personal welfare and financial assets are being taken care of by someone you trust. Although you may not feel the need to appoint a power of attorney right now, it can pay to make the decision in advance, so your affairs are not left in the hands of strangers and solicitors if something unexpected does happen to you.
You may be asked about your power of attorney wishes or who your attorneys are when you move into a New Care home, but if you have any questions for us about our care services, please contact us here.