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Affairs of the Head, Heart and Hip-pocket

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Just imagine it – this is the year – the year you lose your capacity to make your own decisions. What would life be like?

For one thing, it will mean that you won’t be making your own decisions, someone else will. That person is likely to be your Enduring Power of Attorney. Generally, they can make decisions about your finances, your health care and everyday personal things such as where you live, what you wear, what you eat and where you go. I call them the affairs of your head and hip-pocket.

But, what about the affairs of your heart?  How, and to what extent, can they decide on your happiness? Is your happiness even a consideration or should they be just focused on the usual financial and everyday administrative tasks of managing the welfare of your outward existence. What about your internal life? What sort of social control can they exercise over you, or at least try to? Where does morality enter the calculation? How do they address the scourge of later life – loneliness?

Here’s a common example we are often confronted with in aged care. An elderly widow resident is befriended by a male resident who is a widower. They become close companions, if not, bosom pals. They also appear to be happy, indeed, much happier than when they first moved into the facility. Even their health has improved.

Enter stage left, the protective adult child who is also the lady’s EPOA. She becomes concerned, if not alarmed, by what she sees developing between the two of them. After all, it has potential emotional, if not, legal consequences (according to her lawyer). Subliminally as well, she also takes on the role of preserver of her late father’s legacy, his marriage to her mother. She becomes her moral policeman. Her mother is expected to mourn the death of her late husband until she joins him in that other place.

Armed and determined, she instructs the aged care facility to keep them apart and under no circumstances are they to be left alone together. The facility is understandably reluctant at first given the refreshing smiles on the residents’ faces, not to mention the less care they need now due to their new found happiness.

The daughter is undaunted and simply ‘won’t have it’! She threatens to report the facility to A Current Affair, if not the Royal Commission. Media shy and reputation sensitive, the facility relents under a withering barrage of intimidation. Ironically, keeping them apart is not as simple as it sounds. It requires constant staff vigilance and dealing with two very distressed residents whose health, as you might guess, quickly declines. It all adds up to a major additional call on scarce staff resources as well.

But does the daughter have the power under her EPOA to give such direction and is it valid if she does? While life is too short, legal answers are not. This article has now gone on too long and I will address the answer in the next alert.

I can’t wait but I hope you can.

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