I was delighted to be asked by Karl Schütte and Bernie Byrne of Home Instead Senior Care (Ballsbridge) to give a talk last week on the subject of dementia from a legal perspective to a group of healthcare professionals and carers.
We had a lively discussion about the issues that are faced by healthcare professionals, in terms of knowing what people in the earlier stages of dementia can do to protect themselves (perhaps by putting in place an Enduring Power of Attorney, or making a Will) while they still have the capacity to do so.
I also covered the thorny subject of what healthcare professionals, such as public health nurses, can do if they suspect that someone is being abused or neglected, or suffering from self-neglect, in their own home. We also touched upon legislation that makes it an offence to withhold certain information from An Garda Siochana which may lead to the apprehension and possible conviction of a person who is stealing or has stolen from someone else (see the Criminal Justice Act 2011). This may arise for healthcare professionals meeting older people in the community where, for example, they become aware that a family member is ‘helping themselves’ from their parents’ bank account for their own benefit, often unconsciously unaware that this amounts to financial elder abuse.
Similarly, the Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 makes it an offence not to furnish information about a serious offence (rape, sexual assault, incest, false imprisonment, assault) that has been committed against a vulnerable person (or a child) to An Garda Siochana which they know or believe might be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of the offender. There are defences in both the 2011 and 2012 Acts available to the crime of withholding information, and each situation must be considered carefully and legal advice sought.