A leading player among Whanganui's elderly population is urging people to ensure they have enduring power of attorney (EPA) sorted out before its too late.

Age Concern Whanganui says not having an EPA in place can create major problems later.

An EPA puts in place controls for a persons property, personal care and welfare should that person lose the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Age Concern New Zealand data shows a quarter of New Zealanders in rest homes have no EPA. And the figures are worse for those elderly assessed to receive care at home, with 40 per cent without an EPA in place.

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Age Concern Whanganui manager Tracy Lynn said making people aware of the need for an EPA continued to be a work in progress for her organisation.

But Ive got to say this is an issue which doesnt just matter to the elderly. Id say anyone over the age of 18 and who has started to accumulate any assets needs to have something in place, Ms Lynn said. People will often say theyve got a will, which is fine in the event of that persons death. But what if they have a stroke or accident and cant speak for themselves, then who does that for them?

She said the Whanganui office was often dealing with cases where EPA was not in place and that then means getting a welfare guardian organised which is a long, drawn out and expensive process.

She said planning was all that was needed but the difficulty was getting that message across.

I like to tell people that they should regard this as homework, so they talk to their partners, their parents, their children and get enduring power of attorney organised.

Ms Lynn said cost remained a sticking point for some people wanting to sort out an EPA and her organisation had been talking to the legal fraternity to see if some change can be made.

She said at an Age Concern meeting in Marton recently they canvassed the audience of about 20 asking who had EPAs in place. About half - all aged over 65 - had nothing organised.

Now a number of residential care providers are making EPA a priority. But it still comes back to the fact many people still think because they have a will, they dont need enduring power of attorney to be sorted. But they do, she said.For information, visit an Age Concern office, or got to www.ageconcern.org.nz for resources and information on EPA.