The infirm elderly can be very firm about what they want – even if it’s not what they need. Old Mother Common Sense is engaged more often than Human Rights Law!

Posted 31st March 2019


ABBIE: “This is about the clash between keeping vulnerable elderly people safe – and their human right to freedom isn’t it?”

MARY: “Yes, because so many elderly cannot realistically be free to do what they want, as they’d be a danger to themselves. If you live in 24/7 care, described as ‘Supported Independent Living’, the reality is that many residents are or become incapable of living independently.”

ABBIE: “I expect many have Dementia and can’t go out alone. Some need cot sides on their beds to stop them falling out of bed and hurting themselves. There are countless ways the carers have to restrict their ‘liberty’ to do as they please – to keep them safe.”

MARY: “I know a resident who got out and went back to his old home in the village. It had been sold, but he must have had an old key. The new owners returned to find him sitting quietly in their lounge. He’d crossed roads to get there and had no idea the house had been sold. Yet other residents get the bus into town to go shopping, but some of them need to be kept in.”

ABBIE: “It may be possible to commit someone to a mental hospital if they have become seriously mentally ill, but this is rarely done to the elderly. They are cared for in a variety of ways at home and in sheltered accommodation and the like, but their freedom is curtailed by their carers (family and paid for) in ways that they deem necessary. The elderly do not tend to invoke Human Rights laws.”

MARY: “Anyway, the cost of court proceedings on such issues are prohibitive and the wish and ability of people affected to take them vanishingly rare. What we are talking about is the need for a workable and common sense approach to a problem, not a legal hammer to crack a nut.”

ABBIE: “Too right – and that would be a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney, which would say what you did and didn’t want to happen to you and whom you authorised to make decisions on your behalf if you couldn’t do it. People mostly know they should appoint someone they trust to be their Attorney for their property and affairs if they can’t do it themselves, but they forget that their health and welfare is arguably far more vital.”

MARY: “. . . and the key is not leaving it too late. You must have capacity to grant a Power of Attorney. This means doing it when you are well and have all your faculties. It also means having some difficult conversations – but at least the Power of Attorney facilitates talking about these things.”

Abbie Howson advises on Wills, Trusts, Tax and Powers of Attorney with experience and a practical approach

Mary Banham-Hall and the Heald family team sort out divorces and separations with good sense and kindness


Artemis House, 4 Bramley Road Milton Keynes MK1 1PT

Mary is a member of Resolution and has campaigned for no fault divorce