good life, good death, good grief

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Fear of talking about illness & death costs NHS Scotland £23 million a year

THE reluctance of Scots to plan for illness and death is costing the NHS in Scotland an estimated £23m a year.

It is estimated that at any one time 150 NHS beds are taken up by people who don’t need hospital treatment but who can’t be released as they are unable to give their consent to be moved to a more appropriate care setting.

As well as costing precious NHS cash, the problem results in families having to go through lengthy and often costly legal processes to get permission to make care decisions on their loved ones behalf.

The figures have been released as the first ever awareness week aimed at encouraging Scots to talk about death is launched.

The week has been organised by campaign group Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief, who are calling on Scots to give a trusted love one power of attorney – long before they become ill.

The simple legal document allows adults to give another person the right to make decisions on their behalf if they are unable to.

Mark Hazelwood Director of Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief said: “Most people have heard of making a will, but far fewer appreciate the importance of making a power of attorney.

“Yet this simple document can save families so much money and distress and could save the NHS a lot of much needed money.

“Most people just don’t realise that they don’t have any automatic right to make decisions about the care of a loved one, even a spouse, if they are too ill to speak for themselves.

“Having to go to court can take months and can be costly, not to mention very stressful at an already difficult time.

“Often people feel that’s it morbid to think about death and don’t want to talk about it, but none of us knows what is in store around the corner so it makes sense to take this simple practical step now.

“Most people are surprised by how easy and inexpensive it is to make a power of attorney and many people will qualify simply and quickly for legal aid, especially if over retirement age”.

One man who understands the importance of power of attorney is Alan Mees who says his aunt has unnecessarily taken up a bed in hospital for almost six months at a cost of around £50,000.

The 63-year-old’s aunt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after being taken into hospital after a fall in autumn last year.

Former business consultant Alan, said: “There is physically little wrong with my aunt but she can’t be moved from the hospital bed.

“Her Alzheimer’s means she is classed as a vulnerable adult and can’t consent to it.

“Legally no one else can decide on her behalf without a court order to appoint a legal guardian over her affairs, however this is proving to be a very long, expensive and frustrating process.

“It’s been a very difficult time for the family with huge costs to the NHS and it could all have been avoided if only she had given power of attorney to someone.

“I think we all want to believe nothing bad will ever happen to us but the truth is that even if you are young, something could happen that will leave you unable to take decisions on your own.”

The aim of the Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief campaign is to encourage Scots to think about death, dying and bereavement.

The organisation also wants people to talk to their loved ones about they would like to die and what kind of end of life care they would want, as well as make wills and give a trusted loved one power of attorney.

For further information making a power of attorney and on all aspects of death, dying and bereavement, visit: www.goodlifedeathgrief.org.uk

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