Friday 15 March marks National Mental Capacity Act Day and the Barnsley Safeguarding Adults Board wants to highlight the benefit of making an Advance Statement or Advance Decision.
Advance Statements allow all adults to leave clear directions about what they want to happen about key areas of their lives such as health treatments or finances in case they lose capacity to make these decisions later in life. They can be used to say who a person would like to manage their affairs, such as paying bills or looking after children.
Sadly, it’s often the case that people don’t know if they will lose capacity to make decisions, so Advance Statements help remove the risk of decisions being made on someone’s behalf that they might not agree with. Ideally these statements should be shared with a person’s GP, solicitor or hospital.
It can also be helpful for family, as future carers to be aware of the Advance Statement and to draw it to the attention of relevant professionals if the adult is unable to make their own decisions. The statement can include details of a person or people who will act as the adult’s advocate.
An Advance Statement can also record a person’s wishes and feelings about future care – for example “If I ever need to be in a care home, I’d like it to be close to my sister so she can easily visit me”.
An Advance Decision is a legally binding decision to refuse certain specific medical treatment – for example someone could use it to say they do not wish to be resuscitated if they develop certain medical conditions in the future.
People can already make advance decisions, also known as ‘living wills’ but the Mental Capacity Act 2005 introduced a number of rules that must be followed when making an advance decision for it to be valid and applicable.
For people who do decide to refuse life-sustaining treatment in the future, their advance decision needs to be:
- written down
- signed by the person it concerns
- signed by a witness
Bob Dyson, Independent Chair of Barnsley Safeguarding Adults Board, said: “These measures can help people to plan for how their health, wellbeing and financial affairs will be looked after when they are no longer able to do this for themselves.”
People who made an Advance Decision (sometimes known as a ‘living will’) before the MCA came into force then it may still be valid. However, they should check that it meets the new rules, particularly if it deals with life-sustaining treatment. More detailed guidance on this is available at www.nhs.uk/conditions/end-of-life-care/advance-statement/
An example of a free template for anyone wanting to create an advance directive can be found here
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