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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Ten difficult conversations we ought to have with our parents
Article Type: News and events From: Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Volume 14, Issue 3.
No parent wants to be told what to do by their children - and that does not stop when the parent is elderly and the traditional roles of "who's looking after who" can often reverse. "As our parents age, yet remain in good health, it's easy to avoid having the conversations with them about possible difficulties in the future", says Deborah Stone, MD of www.myageingparent.com. "But often that's the very best time to start a conversation - while they are in full control of their lives and still able to have a full say in planning for their future".
The alternative is that sometimes decisions can get taken out of their hands by emergencies, or a rapid decline in health or their financial circumstances.
http://www.myageingparent.com has put together the "Top Ten Questions" to ask your parents in order to help you to begin vital, if difficult, conversations, which may well prevent problems cropping up in the future. The full details are on the website, with each topic leading onto a full paper, but here they are in brief:
1. What are they doing to keep active and busy? Many of our parents will already be very busy and have active social lives. But sometimes their social circle diminishes, particularly after the loss of a partner, or if they develop a medical condition which makes it harder to get out and about. Keeping socially active is as important as keeping physically active for our future cognitive and physical health. Perhaps now is the time for them to consider taking up new hobbies or reviving old ones, or to think about further learning with organizations such as the University of the Third Age. Volunteering is also an excellent way to meet people and feel useful and you are never too old to volunteer. Many organisations have an average volunteer age of late 70s or 80s. It is also a great time to introduce them to PCs or tablets to enable them to keep in touch with the outside world and prevent loneliness and isolation.
2. Have they made a will? Large numbers of people die without leaving a will, or leave one which is out of date, meaning that those they wish to leave money to do not receive it and often they incur Inheritance Tax unnecessarily. If there are no spouse and children and they have not made their wishes clear in a recent will, the estate will go to more distant relatives, with whom they 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 personalisation is key and the rights and dignity of the individual are paramount, a Living Will can ensure that they can choose the way care is provided should they become terminally ill, and ensure that their dignity is retained, even if they lose their mental capacity.
4. Do they want to make a trust? A Trust can be established in your parent's lifetime, or by their Will. This enables them to pass on their estate in a controlled and tax-efficient way to family and/or good causes of their choice, for instance, ring-fencing funds for a grandchild's university education, or even for future generations.
5. Should you get Power of Attorney? (see the paper by Roberto Martins in this issue of QAOA). Having this in place enables your parent to give power to another person to look after their financial and personal 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. They need to be of sound mind to grant this to someone else on their behalf and if it is left too late, it cannot be granted. This can lead to untold problems when trying to help your parent with their affairs should they become incapacitated.
6. Should they be registered disabled? You can register your parent as disabled if they have a substantial and permanent disability. If they are eligible, there are certain advantages, such as access to facilities such as disabled toilets with a key, concessions such as a Disabled Person's Railcard, Blue Badge parking and the possibility of reclaiming VAT on specific disability equipment. You should also consider whether they are receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled.
7. Have they made sure that they are safe at home? One-third of all people over 65 in the UK fall at home every year and over 40 per cent of those over 80. So as well as discussing house, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, a Fall Alarm can also be a lifesaver. Check the home for trailing wires and loose or fraying carpets. Installing grip rails can make it safer to use stairs or steps.
8. Have they thought about their preferred living and care options? Most of us want to remain at home for as long as possible, but if this becomes infeasible, what would their preferences be? Have they considered adapting the home, or downsizing or moving into a retirement community? Making a move before it is forced by circumstances can have huge benefits in reducing outgoings and having quality care on hand.
9. Have they considered how they might fund care? If they have savings above a certain limit or capital, they may be expected to fund their own care, possibly using the family home as collateral, so planning for future costs is advisable, including setting up investments with a guaranteed return. Care Fee Annuities will cover future costs in return for a substantial upfront payment.
10. Have they thought about their funeral wishes? Most of us tend to avoid the subject of death and funerals, but having your wishes known in advance (such as cremation or burial, or even which readings or hymns to use) can enable the family to fulfil those wishes correctly, without the very real prospect of disagreement. Choosing the right executor can also be a critical decision.
For more information, please contact Deborah Stone on 07768 876871 or at mailto:email@example.com