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‘I live for today’: a qualitative study investigating older people’s attitudes to advance planning

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This article reports investigation of prevalent understandings and systems of beliefs that underpin older people’s attitudes towards making plans for their future. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) enables adults with capacity to make plans and decisions in advance, to arrange proxy decision‐making and provides safeguards for those who might lose the capacity to make decisions for themselves in the future. This study explored the attitudes of a diverse sample of 37 self‐declared well older people living in the community in England about their views on drawing up statements of wishes and documenting their decision‐making preferences. The study was conducted in early 2009. Findings revealed that most individuals had a personal tendency or preference towards planning, guided by personality, beliefs, living situation and the relevancy of planning to their situation. Financial plans and funeral arrangements were most commonly drawn up with an absence of health and social care plans, which participants tended to postpone considering. Housing and residential care were important for all. Overall, few participants had heard of the MCA and most were unsure where to turn for support. Participants appreciated support when discussing these issues; some turned to family, while others felt professionals were a more appropriate source of advice. The family doctor was cited as trustworthy and a potential place to begin inquiries. Conceptualising onset of certain debilitating conditions also encouraged participants to think about planning for them. This study has implications for public education campaigns and health‐related information that could potentially impact on many older people who are interested in making plans but are unaware that legal safeguards and practical support are available to aid this.
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Keywords: Mental Capacity Act; advance planning; dementia; older people

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London, London, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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