Bookselling, blogging and maintaining websites have had to be placed on the back-burner since late November 2014 when my uncle, the last remaining member of my mother’s generation and who lived about three miles from me, was admitted to hospital. Fiercely independent he has had a muscle wasting disease for some years but remained in his own home with carers visiting four times a day to get him up, prepare food for him and later get him back to bed. Last November he developed a chest infection which necessitated admission to hospital but he was ready to be discharged in January this year.
The infection had, however, taken its toll and reduced his mobility still further. After a trial visit home during which he failed to cope with things such as his stairlift he decided that his only option was to go into in residential care. Once he had made the decision not to return home he charged me with the task of disposing of his house and the contents. I plan to relate subsequent events but before covering disposals I quickly discovered the usefulness of my power of attorney.
Some years ago my uncle had the foresight to give me an Enduring Power of Attorney. At the time I was given no description of what the Power entailed but was just told that it would not be needed unless he lost the capacity to make decisions for himself and so I locked it away. In fact it is much more useful than that and this first part of ‘after caring’ is just as important as, had I known it, it would have saved me a lot as a carer. I have since realised that I should have queried the precise power that I was being given and not relied on his description.
As an example of one of the benefits, as well as shopping for him twice a week every so often I would take him to the bank in a wheelchair so that he could draw the cash to pay for his laundry, gardener, milkman, etc. After some time he was not capable of transferring from the wheelchair into my car, and vice versa, and so I would be given a cheque to draw the cash on his behalf. This would generally be getting on for four figures, not the sort of amount I keep spare in a current account so I would have to pay in my uncle’s cheque, wait for clearance and then draw the cash on another visit to the bank.
Had I been aware, my ‘enduring power of attorney’ could have been used to give me access his account. I only discovered this when I consulted his solicitor about his care needs in January this year and found that the power of attorney could be extremely useful well before he lost any decision making capacity. I visited his bank with the Power of Attorney, got it registered and they provided me with a chequebook and debit card on his current account. Had I done so sooner it would have saved me untold trips to the bank and many hours travelling but it was only when he was on the point of going into care that I discovered this aspect.
There are other benefits but the moral is if you have a power of attorney don’t wait until you think you need it but find out exactly what powers it bestows beforehand. Caring for a relative can be demanding and it might help you in ways that you don’t expect.
Note: I understand that Enduring Power of Attorney has been replaced by a Lasting Power of Attorney but the older version is still valid.