In the recent case of Westminster City Council v Sykes  EWHC B9 (24/02/2014) the Court of Protection has ordered that an 89-year-old dementia sufferer who spent her life campaigning for political causes and the rights of others can to return to her own home on a trial basis following an involuntary stay in a care home.
Manuela Sykes was diagnosed with dementia in 2006 and in keeping with her previous activities she campaigned for fellow sufferers, in particular the plight of older women. She also made a living Will of her wishes. Ms Syke's friend, known as RS, was granted lasting power of attorney over her property and finances but not in relation to her welfare.
Matters before the Court of Protection are usually anonymous in order to protect the privacy of those involved. However in a first for the previously secretive court, Judge Eldergill was persuaded that Ms Syke's name could be reported in order to highlight the issues that face people in her position due to her previous achievements and campaign work in drawing attention to social issues.
Judge Eldergill sympathised with those in Ms Syke's position stating: “The progression of the illness and the sort of incidents which occurred will be familiar to anyone who has cared for or spent time with a family member or friend who is developing dementia, and anyone who is reasonably observant.”
As her condition progressed and her memory deteriorated and she was reported to have become increasingly abusive towards her carers and friends due to misunderstandings and reduced impulse control cause by her condition. Difficulties in providing Ms Sykes with personal care during this time led to deterioration in her health and an admission to hospital.
She was then assessed as lacking capacity to decide where she should live and a series of best interests decisions were made that she should remain within the care home by her local authority, Westminster Council. During this time she was made subject to 'standard authorisations' of her continued detention at the home under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. She was therefore deprived of her liberty under schedule A1 of the Mental Capacity Act.
Being kept at the care home was reported to have made Ms Sykes 'miserable' and she made numerous attempts to both discharge herself from hospital and leave the care home. She had also suggested that she would take her own life if she had to remain in the home.
Judge Eldergill held that it was in fact in Ms Syke's best interests to have a one month trial back in her own home due to her expressed wishes both before and after her illness and the damage to her mental health being caused by remaining at the home. The local authority will now need to ensure a robust package of care is in place for Ms Syke's within her own home during this trial period.
Ensuring that a relative with dementia receives proper care from a local authority and that decisions are in their best interests can be a particularly difficult time for all involved. This stress is often compounded by unfamiliar court proceedings. The Court of Protection is a specialist Court safeguarding the rights of those who lack mental capacity or are vulnerable in making decisions.
By Emma McClure, Court of Protection disputes team
If you require advice in respect of any issues which may require the Court of Protection to intervene, then our team is able to provide specialist legal advice, representation and guidance through this process call us on 01616 966 229.