Dementia is a threat that everyone must face and it is vital to both make and clearly express your own plans for your future before you lose the mental capacity to do so. Emma Walker looks at a recent case in which the High Court made that point in sanctioning a frail pensioner’s discharge from an English care home and his return to Jamaica, the land of his birth.
The man, aged 89, came to Britain in the 1960s to work and had remained here ever since. Looked after in a care home, he had advanced dementia and had a limited understanding of the world around him. There was no dispute that he lacked the mental capacity to make important decisions for himself.
His relatives in Jamaica viewed him as the head of their family and were anxious for him to return there. They put forward a detailed care package that would enable him to live, under close supervision, with his sister in her five-bedroom home. His local authority was, however, firmly opposed to the proposed move. Ruling on the matter, the Court noted his regular telephone contact with his family in Jamaica and his close connection to Jamaican culture. In the care home, there was evidence that the sound of reggae improved his mood and prompted him to dance. A consultant in old age psychiatry who examined him could see no reason why he should not be able to settle in his homeland.
The Court acknowledged that his move to Jamaica would not be without risk. He was too frail to take a commercial flight and would have to travel by air ambulance at a cost of about £100,000. On the other hand, professional care is cheaper in Jamaica and, even after paying for his flight, he would have a pot of capital available to fund any non-family care he might need. The decision was finely balanced, but there was evidence that, prior to the onset of dementia, he had indicated a desire to return to Jamaica for his final years once he had settled his affairs in the UK. The Court had little doubt that, were he still capable of expressing his wishes and feelings, he would say that he wanted to live in Jamaica.
The move, the Court found, would also bring him intangible benefits. However good staff in the care home might be, there was no replacement for him being looked after by loving family members to whom he was special. His natural wish would be to live surrounded by the smells, food and religion of his childhood and to spend his last days in the bosom of his family, rather than being cared for by strangers.
Have you ever worried as to how major decisions would be taken for you in the event you lost the capacity to make them yourself?
A Lasting Power of Attorney can enable you to authorise somebody you trust to make such decisions for you should you ever lose capacity.
If you need such assistance, we can help.