Most adults have not thought, or talked about, where they would like to be cared for if they became seriously ill or frail, new research has revealed.
Furthermore, most adults are confused about issues around decision making and consent when it comes to caring for seriously ill or frail older people.
The findings were released by Safeguarding Ireland, which is a coalition of national organisations in the health, social and financial sectors, that work together to protect vulnerable adults.
According to its research involving 1,000 adults, 80% had not thought, or talked about, where they would like to be cared for in the event of illness or frailty, while just 5% had documented where they would like to be cared for.
While around one in five had thought about where they would like to be cared for if they were seriously ill or near death, just 17% of these had actually discussed this with a family member, friend or other trusted person.
While those over the age of 65 were more likely to have considered where they would like to be cared for, the figure was still low (43%) and of these, just 17% had discussed it with someone they trusted, while just 5% had documented their preference.
Meanwhile, most adults are confused about decision making and consent when it comes to caring for others who are seriously ill or frail.
When asked if a family member has authority to make decisions for someone who is frail, but still has decision-making capacity, without their consent, 30% said yes, the family member does have this authority, while 28% did not know. Just 40% recognised that any decisions continue to lie fully with the person as long as they have decision-making capacity.
Safeguarding Ireland chairperson, Patricia Rickard Clarke, said that all adults, and particularly older adults with reducing capacity, need to think about their wishes, talk with those they trust and document their choices.
"The message from Safeguarding Ireland is to plan ahead. Turn your wishes into plans and make known where you would like to be cared for. If in the future you did not have decision-making capacity, where would you choose to live - at home with supports, with a family member or friend, in a nursing home or hospice, or remain in hospital?
"While it may not always be possible to deliver all of these wishes, by being known, our preferences can be considered and respected. Planning ahead protects rights and respects choices. It is also recognised as the best step to safeguard against being treated badly, or experiencing adult abuse," Ms Rickard Clarke explained.
She encouraged people to complete the Irish Hospice Foundation's Think Ahead form, a dedicated planning document, available at www.thinkahead.ie. Place of care preferences is one of many choices that can be recorded in the document.
Meanwhile, Ms Rickard Clarke also called for a better understanding of people's rights, decision making-capacity and consent.
"This research has confirmed our suspicion that consent for frail older people is often misunderstood. No-one has authority to make a decision for a person who has decision-making capacity. Their consent is always required. As long as a person has this capacity, where they are cared for is their own decision," she emphasised.
As part of the research, adults were asked where their preferred place of care would be and most chose their home over institutional care, such as a nursing home or hospital.
For more information on planning ahead and choosing your place of care, click here.
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