5 May 2022

Solicitors for the Elderly

By Miranda Marshall, Director, Hayes + Storr.

One of the specialist professional bodies of which I am a member is the Solicitors for the Elderly (SfE) which ‘does what is says on the tin’. I am in the process of renewing my SfE Older Client Care in Practice (OCCP) certificate which comes around every five years.

The resource and guidance material is surprisingly engaging reading, so I thought I would share with you some of the little nuggets of information that have come out of the course, leading to a 90-minute online assessment.

It is not just a question of diminishing capacity and substituted decision-making. The aim is to establish a recognised standard of older and vulnerable client care procedures that result in a better experience and service for older clients and their representatives. A large element of the course is understanding the potential physical and cognitive limitations that affect how advice should best be given and how to use soft skills to communicate.

Increasingly high statistics about difficult safeguarding topics such as spotting potential undue influence and abuse may just show that we are more alert to the risks. This ranges from gentle ‘coaching’ to harsh and abusive treatment.

Medical knowledge about aging brings valuable insight. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the most common health problem in later life is depression and a major reason for admission to care homes. Estimates suggest that 85% of older people with depression receive no help at all from the NHS, and it must have become higher over lockdown.

Guidance includes asking a vision-impaired person if they are bringing a guide dog and, if so, making sure that there is a bowl of water for it and showing them the nearest patch of grass for the dog’s comfort-break.

We are told that those with dementia can suffer from hypersensitivity to sensory issues. As well as creating a calm office environment, it is suggested that we consider our clothing and make up and avoid strong scents or perfumes. We are told that sometimes however, wearing lipstick provides a great communication advantage for people who need to lip-read.

It is interesting to track how advice and guidance and our attitudes about the older client has moved on from well-intentioned paternalism to life-affirming empowerment since I was one of the early members of SfE back in the 1990s.

For further information, please contact Miranda Marshall on 01263 712835 or email miranda.marshall@hayes-storr.com.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.