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Elderly missing out on power of attorney

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/04/2017

Most elderly New Zealanders don't have enduring power of attorney even though they arguably need it the most, a study has found.

Lack of information and financial barriers were cited as reasons for not having one.

Under a power of attorney document, a person gives another the legal authority to make decisions on their behalf.

Enduring power of attorney (EPA) continues to operate even if the first person has lost the capacity to deal with their own affairs.

Researchers surveyed 100 individuals seen in community geriatric clinics or home visits in the Counties Manukau Health area in 2015.

They found that only 38 of them had EPA. Of those who didn't, 43 gave lack of information as the main reason.

Most (49) felt their doctor or lawyer would be the best person to convey such information to them, as opposed to the media.

New Zealand Europeans (64 per cent) were more likely than other ethnic groups (10 per cent) to have EPA.

A paper published in the NZ Medical Journal says increased efforts to educate people on taking up EPA could provide positive personal and social outcomes.

The authors, from Counties Manukau Health's Department of Geriatrics, say EPA is a simple document that is easy to set up and protects the wishes of the donor.

It prevents significant psychological and social cost for patients and their family when long-term residential care is needed.

It also reduces the significant cost in hospital beds days for the district health board involved while awaiting the Protection of Personal and Property Rights order.

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