Less than 10% of adults have discussed with loved ones where they would like to be cared for if they developed a serious or long-term illness, new research has found.
According to the findings, just 6% of adults have legally nominated a family member or friend to be their attorney (under enduring power of attorney), which would allow them to make legal and financial decisions should they become unable to do so.
Meanwhile, just 8% have discussed a preferred place of care, such as at home or a nursing home, with family, friends or an appointed attorney, if they developed a serious or long-term illness.
The research was commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland, which is a coalition of national organisations in the health, social and financial sectors, that work together to protect vulnerable adults. It has launched a public awareness campaign to highlight the steps people need to take to reduce their risk of abuse.
The research found that almost half of adults have not planned ahead for their future, which could make them vulnerable to abuse. This was particularly the case for young people (aged 18-44), women, and those with a lower socioeconomic status.
It also found that just 11% knew what an advance healthcare directive is. Sometimes referred to as a living will, this is a legal document in which a person states what actions should be taken in relation to their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves, such as because of illness.
Meanwhile, just 27% of adults had made a will and only 22% said they had a personal pension.
Launching these findings, Safeguarding Ireland called on people to plan ahead, as this will reduce the risk of them becoming victims of physical, psychological or financial abuse in the future, should they become vulnerable.
Research on adult abuse published by the HSE National Safeguarding Office in 2017 revealed 10,120 concerns relating to alleged abuse. Some 37% of these referred to physical abuse, while 11% referred to financial abuse.
"At any time, we are vulnerable to not having capacity to make decisions for ourselves due to ageing, illness or an accident. It is when we do not have decision-making capacity that we become most vulnerable to being abused.
"Safeguarding Ireland is recommending that people safeguard themselves for their future by thinking ahead. This involves having in place an attorney, a care plan, an understanding of an advance healthcare directive, a pension and a will for management of family wealth," commented the organisation's chairperson, Patricia Rickard Clarke.
Safeguarding Ireland has developed a ‘Think Ahead' guide and form, which provides all the necessary information that people need. This and more information can be found on the website, www.safeguardingireland.org.