‘What if I suddenly lose my mental capacity and am unable to make decisions for myself?’ This is a question that is seldom considered until a crisis strikes.
Matters regarding end-of-life are generally not easy to discuss, especially with the elderly in an Asian culture. Many consider it taboo to talk about death and fear of the unknown. In addition, strained family relationships may further complicate such discussions. (Family members may prefer not to discuss such topics for fear of being misunderstood to have ulterior motives or bringing disharmony. This is especially so if only certain family members get to make decisions.)
With the ageing population in Singapore, there is a rising concern for risk of lack of mental capacity due to illness and old age. We will also never know when an accident could happen. For example, a fall, complications from surgeries or a stroke can severely impact one’s physical and mental capacities.
1. My children will know how to take care of me if anything happens to me.
2. The Government will take care of me.
3. I don’t have much money in my bank.
(Owning a HDB property is part of your asset and can be used to pay for medical and care through rental, lease buy-back or sale of your flat)
If a person becomes mentally incapacitated without making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), his family cannot access, for example, the money in his bank account to care for him. They would have to apply to the courts to act as his deputy, to make decisions on the behalf of the mentally incapacitated person. This process is a lot more costly and tedious.
Hence, it is important to start having such conversations early, especially with the elderly and their family members.
Who needs to know about PDD?
Set up by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), the Professional Deputies and Donees (PDD) scheme was started in 2018 because family units were shrinking and, at the same time, there was a growing number of singles who may not have family members or close friends to be their proxy decision makers. PDD aims to help individuals, in particular single elderly or childless elderly couples, who may not have family members or close friends to rely on to take care of their future needs.
Others who would choose to appoint Professional Donees are those who have strained family ties or are living alone in Singapore with their children living overseas. Some do not want to trouble their loved ones or feel their family members are reluctant to take up this responsibility.
Under the PPD scheme, you now have the option to choose a trusted Professional Donee to act in your best wishes in the event that you lack mental capacity. All PDDs needs to be certified, registered, and supervised by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), MSF in making decisions and carrying out their duties.
What does PDD do?
Since TOUCH started our Professional Deputies and Donees service in 2019, it has been clear that many elderly do want to be empowered to make choices while they still have mental capacity.
When we met Mary, a widow in her 80s, she was constantly worried about her future as she lives alone in a three-room flat and has no children. After Mary appointed TOUCH as her Professional Donee, we met with her several times to find out her wishes and preferences when it comes to her care arrangements like choosing a nursing home and healthcare needs, standard of care and well-being on a regular basis. It includes the food and music she likes. Even if she loses her mental capacity one day, she can still enjoy her favourite food and music since staff are aware of her preferences.
It matters to seniors that they have someone whom they can rely on to safeguard their interests, such as to manage their personal welfare or property and affairs. It is not easy for someone to entrust one’s life and possessions to a stranger. Building trust is crucial.
What can I do to prepare for unforeseen circumstances?
Having early conversations about mental incapacity is the best way to prepare yourself and your family for unforeseen circumstances.
Here are some pointers for discussion:
- Am I prepared if I lose mental capacity suddenly?
- Does my family know what to do if something happens to me?
- Do the elderly around me require a Professional Donee?
- Am I assured that my needs will be cared for when something happens unexpectedly?
Individuals who are interested can now approach TOUCH to appoint a Professional Donee to handle their personal welfare and/or property and affairs matters. Please call 63179 9996 (Office Hours: Monday to Friday 9.00am to 6.00pm).
TOUCH Professional Deputies & Donees (TPDD) was set up in 2019, following the launch of the PDD scheme by the Ministry of Social and Family Development in 2018. TPDD is part of TOUCH Community Services’ efforts to build enabled communities and strengthen family relationships. Leveraging its three decades of community service, including serving the elderly and people with special needs, individuals can be assured of reliability and service continuity. TPDD has a pool of professionals certified and registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). Individuals who do not have a suitable Donee or replacement Donee are now given the option to appoint TOUCH as their Professional Donee (PD) to manage their Personal Welfare, Property & Affairs, or both, when they lose mental capacity. TOUCH also partners external stakeholders like lawyers, estate planners and Trust companies for some aspects of the work. TOUCH’s Professional Deputy can also apply to the Court to act in the best interest of individuals who have lost their mental capacity. For more information, please visit www.touch.org.sg/pdd.