Importance of power of attorney

When my father was finally diagnosed with younger onset dementia at the age of 63 he did not have an enduring power of attorney (EPOA) or an enduring guardian. By the time we knew it was dementia that was causing his problems, he had progressed to such a stage that I was told I would "have to find a dodgy lawyer" to get an EPOA. The Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) advised me to make an application to the Guardianship Tribunal for Financial Management and Guardianship orders. This was an involved and quite confronting process. I was granted Financial Management and have to prepare annual accounts for the Trustee and Guardian and apply for approval for certain financial transactions. My life would be much less stressful if he made an EPOA when he had capacity.

I did not receive Guardianship because there were no disagreements within the family and amongst health professionals about my father's lifestyle, health and care needs. When I asked what would happen if this ever changed, I was told I'd have to re-apply to the Tribunal. Fortunately, Guardianship has not been an issue because we know what his wishes would be. Advance care planning discussions took place in our home as I was growing up. For example, I know Dad would never want to be kept alive on life support; he'd want me to 'pull the plug'! These conversations give me peace of mind as I answer important questions and fill out forms at residential aged care facilities and hospitals. I can confidently say that Dad wouldn't want CPR, peg feeding, or life support.

My advice to others is make sure you have an enduring power of attorney just in case and talk to your loved ones about what you would want if the time came when you couldn't tell them what you want.