‘Your next of kin is powerless without a Power of Attorney’ so the campaign slogan goes.
‘But I’m my mother’s welfare attorney and I feel very powerless’ bemoaned my friend to me the other day. ‘My mum has dementia and has been in hospital for the last week but things keep happening without me knowing about it’. She went on to describe how her mum had been admitted to hospital following a fall where she had broken her hip. ‘They spoke to me before she had surgery and I didn’t think to tell them I was her attorney but they didn’t ask either. I’ve since told them but she’s had a fluid drip put up, antibiotics prescribed and a catheter put in and I’ve only found out when I’ve gone to visit her’. She wasn’t complaining about her mother’s care, which had been excellent, just mystified as to why she hadn’t been consulted about fairly major interventions in her mother’s life.
The law provides ways to support and protect the rights of adults with mental disorder but is only effective if we know what it is and where to apply it. However, most of us are rather wary of the law and tend to think of it as a complex and specialist area that doesn’t apply to us. Yes, the law is complex at times but it’s also designed to be accessible and practical. As citizens and members of communities, we don’t need to know everything but everybody needs to know at least the basics, preferably before the diagnosis of a health condition like dementia that may affect our ability to make decisions. Everybody, who works in health and social care from ancillary staff to doctors need to know enough at their level of responsibility to provide care that supports and protects the rights of adults within the framework of the law.
So, from the foundation of Human Rights comes; the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000, the Mental Health (Care & Treatment) Scotland Act 2003 and the Adult Support & Protection (Scotland) Act 2007, all of which have the potential to apply to all of us in some way or another. Knowing about these laws is even more important when our work involves supporting and protecting the rights of people with dementia.
So what about my friend and her mother. Well, thankfully her mum recovered well from her broken hip and returned home within a fortnight. My friend and I spent some time reading and talking about the code of practice for attorneys so she’s now much clearer about her role, the responsibilities of care providers and how the two can work together. As practitioners, we’d better get up to speed so that she doesn’t catch us out.