A power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone to make decisions for you, or act on your behalf, if you’re no longer able to or if you no longer want to make your own decisions.

The reasons for making a power of attorney can be temporary such as being in hospital or long term if a diagnosis of dementia or other such condition has been made.

Mental capacity means the ability to make or communicate specific decisions at the time they need to be made. Mental capacity requires you to understand the decision you need to make, why you need to make it, and the likely outcome of your decision.

It could be that a person can make decisions about certain things such as what clothes to wear or food to eat but would find it difficult to prepare paperwork or arrange their day. It could also be that a person ability would change from day to day.

If a person needs time to communicate it doesn’t mean they lack mental capacity and a person with dementia may still be able to make their own decisions. Where communication becomes difficult, an attempt should always be made to overcome those difficulties and help the person decide for themselves.

However, if mental capacity is lost then a person can make decisions for another in one of two ways.

Power of attorney for property and finance – such things as dealing with a bank, buying or selling items including property and other such matters.

Power of attorney for health and welfare – the types of treatments a person should or should not receive, including life sustaining treatments, care provisions and daily matters such as food and accommodation.