Helping an elderly relative

First published on 15 of October 2018 • Updated 15 of October 2018

As your parents enter old age, they may rely on you more and more, just as you once relied on them. This isn’t necessarily about physical infirmity, dementia or other health issues, but also about everyday decision making. Your parents may be in perfect health, yet might still need help accessing the information and advice they need to manage their lives in the modern world.

You can be on hand to assist your parents in the following key areas of later life:

  • Seeking pension advice
  • Ensuring the will is up to date
  • What to do about the family home
  • Setting up Power of Attorney
  • Finding care at home
  • Planning for a funeral

Seeking pension advice

If your elderly parent or relative still has some unspent pension pot, you can guide them to the best options for drawing an income from it, by seeking independent pension advice. If they have already traded in their own pension pot for an annuity then there may be no further action they can take, but it’s always worth checking.

Pension advice can also reveal if your parent has any ‘lost’ pension pots that are still unclaimed, which could be combined and used to generate more income. You can also find out whether your parent is drawing their pension in the most efficient way, and whether their pension can be inherited.

Finally, it’s sad but true that many older people are targeted by fraudsters for their pension savings. Please be aware of this, and warn your parents never to speak to cold callers who want to discuss their pension, however convincing they may sound. Find out more about pension fraud.

Writing or updating a will

Your parent or relative should have written a will already. However, many older people still don’t have a will, and those that do may have written theirs years ago. The consequences of dying without a will can be quite serious for the rest of the family – find out about that here.

Help your relative to update their will by finding them a solicitor and if necessary discussing their wishes with them. You should also check that any current wills are worded correctly and contain nothing that will cause problems later. Joint wills, for example, can prove very troublesome and should be amended before either partner dies.

What to do about the family home

Your parents’ current home may now be too large for their needs, or may have other issues (e.g. lots of stairs, wear and tear) which make it less suitable for older people. If they’re considering moving out, you may be able to help them with the process of downsizing and hunting for a new home, especially if they’re less web-savvy.

Downsizing can also involve getting rid of a lot of possessions, whether through selling or recycling. Again you can help by selling unwanted furniture online, or using services such as Freecycle to give them away to anyone who will collect.

Downsizing can also free up valuable funds for retirement. If your parents would rather stay in the family home but could still use some extra money, then equity release may be a solution.

Equity release unlocks some of the value of the property as cash, which is then repaid on the eventual sale of the house. Although convenient, it can significantly reduce the amount of money inherited by family members, so it’s very important to seek mortgage advice if considering this option.

Setting up Lasting Power of Attorney

Arranging a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) can be as vital as writing a will – if not more so. If someone becomes unable to manage their own finances, e.g. due to dementia, then the person with LPA can manage their affairs on their behalf.

The attorney can be any trusted individual, such as a close family member, and will the power to access the person’s bank accounts, manage their assets and pay bills etc. on their behalf if they become incapable of doing so.

The crucial thing to remember is that LPA must be set up in advance, as it won’t be valid if the individual doesn’t have mental capacity at the time.

Finding care at home

As they get older, one or both of your parents may need care of some sort. This doesn’t mean having to go into a care home – indeed, if adequate care is provided in good time, it can remove the need for a care home entirely.

You can help your parent(s) to explore options for professional care in the comfort of their own homes. Homecare involves regular visits to help with the things a person may find difficult, such as getting washed and dressed, doing weekly food shopping, housework and preparing meals.

Elderly people may be anxious about the cost of care and the thought of ‘being a burden’. Help them to explore options for paying for care and receiving financial assistance, so you can put their mind at ease.

Find out much more about care and support for elderly people.

Planning a funeral

Though you may feel uncomfortable bringing up the subject of a parent’s funeral, older people are often quite comfortable discussing this subject. It’s important for you to know in plenty of time what your parents’ wishes are, and for them to know who will be making the arrangements in the event of their death.

Sorting out a broad plan for funeral arrangements in advance will greatly reduce stress during the bereavement process itself, since you will have far less to think about. In particular, be familiar with the list of things you must do when someone dies. Your parents may also want to put in place arrangements for paying for their funerals.

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