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10 Must-Have Conversations With Elderly Parents

November 28, 2016 3:55 pm Published by

While our parents are still in good health it can be very easy to not discuss difficult yet vital subjects with them.

Planning for the future is crucial to ensure your parents future care wishes are taken into account, and that they have the opportunity to express these wishes while they are able to do so, and in good time to put them in place when the time comes. The team at My Ageing Parent have compiled a list of the ten questions you and your loved ones should be asking.

  1. Have they thought about how to keep active and busy ? Many of our parents have active, busy lives. But for those retiring a huge part of their life that was occupied by work will now be free. It is a good idea to consider hobbies and other activities, particularly if they are alone, as it is important to encourage social interaction to minimise the risk of isolation. Volunteering is also an excellent way to meet people and feel useful. It is also a good time to introduce them to PCs or tablets to allow them to communicate with family and friends, as well as access all the other benefits of the Internet, such as entertainment and shopping.
  2. Have they made a will?  To ensure that those people who they want to benefit from your estate on death receive their entitlement it is essential a will is drawn up.  Furthermore, a will is needed if they are married and want to leave everything to their spouse to ensure no Inheritance Tax will be paid on their death, as all gifts to spouses are tax exempt. Ensuring a will is in place means that their is no uncertainty or ambiguity surrounding a loved ones estate, which could result in a dispute arising in the absence of a Will. If they do not make a will, the Rules of Intestacy apply, which means that the spouse will receive all personal items and the first £250,000.  In addition, they will receive a life interest in half the remainder of the estate. The rest of the estate will go to children and this could result in Inheritance Tax being paid. Working out the spouse’s entitlement on intestacy may be very complex and costly. If there are is no spouse and children, the estate will go to more distant relatives, with whom you may have had no contact with for years whilst close friends are excluded.
  3. Have they considered a Living Will/ Advanced Directive?   At a time when the rights and dignity of the individual are paramount, advanced directives are featuring more and more in the legal landscape. They represent significant mechanisms for both safeguarding and promoting an individual’s health and interests. Crucially, they maintain an individual’s dignity. If, for example, an individual was in need of care and treatment, but was without mental capacity, the advanced directive would indicate if such treatment was to be refused.
  4. Do they want to make a trust? A Trust can be established in your parent’s lifetime, or by their Will. Trusts are there to provide income to others in specific circumstances. There are two types of trust: Life Interest Trust, where your older relative might want to provide income rather than capital to a beneficiary,e.g. in a Will if they are in a second marriage with children only from their first marriage, they may want to provide income for their spouse and preserve the capital for their children or Discretionary Trusts, which allow Trustees to use their absolute discretion as to whether to benefit a member of a class of beneficiaries, e.g. this may be useful where your parent has a child on benefits and they don’t want to give them an absolute interest under their Will which would result in the reduction or removal of benefits
  5. Should you get a Power of Attorney? Power of attorney enables your parent to give power to another person to look after their affairs when they no longer have capacity to do so themselves, for example, if they have a stroke, develop dementia or any other illness which impairs their ability to make decisions. There are two Forms of Lasting Powers of Attorney: Property and Financial Affairs Power of Attorney, enabling people to deal with someone’s finances, for example invest money on their behalf, pay bills and even sell their property and Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney, enabling people to make decisions on someone’s behalf about where they live, who looks after them and their on-going medical care.  They can also give their Attorney power to make decisions about life sustaining treatment. Lasting Powers of Attorney can only be made whilst your parent fully understands the nature of the power they are giving to another person – they must have mental capacity.
  6. Should they be registered disabled?   You can register your parent as disabled if they have a substantial and permanent disability. A substantial disability is defined as ‘affecting the individual’s ability to complete basic tasks, being dependent on equipment or assistance in many activities of daily life’. If they are eligible to be registered disabled, there are certain advantages, such as access to certain facilities like disabled toilets with a key, access to some concessions such as a Disabled Person’s Railcard, discounts at some leisure facilities and the possibility of reclaiming VAT on specific disability equipment.
  7. Have they made sure that they are safe at home? Home should be where they are safest, but as people age so does their risk of accidents. Security measures that should be discussed include burglar alarms, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and the option of fall alarms or pendants that notify loved-ones and the emergency services if an individual has had a fall. As we age we can often become unsteady on our feet, checking whether a loved ones home can be made safer by removing trailing wires, fixing loose or fraying carpets and ensuring lighting is good can reduce the risk of falls and accidents. An incredible third of all people over 65 in the UK fall at home every year and over 40% of those are over 80.
  8. Have they thought about their preferred care options? Obviously, your parent would want to remain at home for as long as possible, but if this becomes infeasible what would their preferences be? Would they like to live with you and would you like this? You need to consider the impact on your own relationships. Could domiciliary care be the best option in that case? Or would they prefer to look at a retirement community with a warden and/or nursing staff on hand for when they become less able to cope.
  9. Have they considered how they might fund care?  For those people who have assets above the current means test threshold of £23,250, and do not qualify for NHS Continuing Care , it is important to consider the costs of future care. Does your parent want to save for this in the bank by placing capital on deposit, either all in an instant access account, or by using some fixed term accounts in addition where appropriate? This is the simplest option to understand and operate as funds can be transferred quickly and easily and capital is accessible depending on accounts used, but interest rates are currently poor, which  means that capital can run down very quickly, and for large sums it may be difficult to administer if you are trying to keep balances below the Financial Services Compensation Scheme limit of £85,000. Or would they prefer to make stock market-related investments, such as unit trusts or other funds? This involves placing a reserve amount of  money in a deposit account and investing the remainder with a view to receiving more income than on a deposit account. This has the potential for higher income than deposit accounts and possibly capital growth, but investment values can fall as well as rise and as a result the benefits of extra income can be outweighed by falls in capital value and an understanding of the risks involved with investments is necessary. Do they want to look at a Care Fees Annuity? This involves paying an amount of capital to an insurance company in return for a guaranteed pre-agreed income to a care provider for the rest of their life. This can provide a high and increasing income paid tax free direct to a registered care provider for life, however long that may be, this protects at least some of the available capital and provides peace of mind that capital will never run out.
  10. Have they thought about their funeral wishes ?   Because most people tend to avoid the subject of death and funerals, they tend to be poorly equipped to make informed decisions when they are bereaved.   Beyond the basic decision of burial or cremation, people may need to consider the technicalities and pit-falls of options such as body donation, burial on private land or at sea. There may also be specific music, rituals or speeches that an individual would like at their own funeral, making it essential that they have an opportunity to express these wishes before it’s too late.

If you would like more information on any of the above topics please feel free to contact Home Care Preferred on 020 8364 3670. We pride ourselves on offering an advisory service, and have established relationships with other businesses and professionals that we can signpost you to if appropriate