Why we need to talk about later life needs

News & Insights

MoneyPlus Features Team

1st June 2016 at 10:06am

We all want to live long, happy and healthy lives. But, for some, those later years bring a different set of challenges.

In the first of a series of articles, John Brewer talks about the issues that more and more of us face, such as the loss of independence and the need to manage older people’s affairs.

This is his story…

At retirement, many people are fortunate enough to be independent and enjoy a fulfilling lifestyle. They’re fit and hopefully reaping the rewards of having built up the financial security to make the most of their new freedom.

But what if, or when, that changes?

Health can falter and many experience a growing loss of independence that affects them and their families.

It’s an incredibly sensitive and life-changing subject.

What could lie ahead?

If someone begins to need help as they get older, there are finances and a whole host of practicalities to think about, such as living arrangements, health concerns and bills to pay. Major investment decisions may need to be made around how to fund those later years.

Long-term care might become a necessity, putting a financial and emotional strain on families.

In reality it’s something I’ve experienced, and initially I didn’t know where to turn.

At retirement, my parents were independent and able to take care of their own affairs. They had a good support network and had the foresight to take legal advice and set up a Power of Attorney (PoA) when they thought about what the future might hold.

But just over ten years ago managing things was becoming very difficult.

Thankfully I was able to use the Power of Attorney they’d set up which gave me the legal right to make decisions on their behalf when they were no longer able to.

Having that helped me cut through red tape to deal with their finances, lawyer and hold care plan meetings. That was on top of dealing with the GP and making and attending hospital appointments.

It’s worth being aware, though, that there is more than one type of PoA – a temporary one and a lasting one, and it’s vital to have the right type, which we did.

Don’t get me wrong, it was not all doom and gloom. Taking care of your parents – or grandparents for that matter – can offer the reward of knowing you have done the right thing. It’s payback for all the years they looked after us. It’s an investment of a very different kind.

At times I did find it difficult to think clearly; should I really be spending their money on hefty care bills?  I was making decisions about money that could eventually result in selling the family home. But we found a way through it all as a family.

What can you do to prepare?

If you or your family find yourself in a similar situation, there is a lot you can do to manage things. Knowing what to do and where to get support goes some way making things that bit easier.

Plan ahead

Don’t leave it until the situation is critical; look ahead while everyone is reasonably fit and healthy. Discuss things, including what would need to be taken care of if parents become really infirm. This might include what happens to the family home if they need long-term care.

Get good advice

Importantly, take legal and financial advice if you can, ideally someone who really understands the issues.

If you, or someone you know, is looking for an accredited adviser who specialises in the needs of those in their later years and their families, you can get in touch with the not-for-profit Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA).

Alternatively, unbiased.co.uk can put you in touch with advisers in your area.

If you don’t have an adviser, Age UK and Citizens’ Advice are good sources of information.

Set up a Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a good idea whatever age you are. Accident or illness can happen to anyone at any age and may trigger a need for others to manage your affairs.

Just do it, file it and keep it safe.

You can find out more about the different types of Power of Attorney on the Age UK website.

Write a Will and plan who will inherit your pensions

A surprising number of people don’t have a Will. Write one and update it as circumstances change.

Remember that pensions aren’t normally part of a Will. You do need to consider who you want to inherit your pension money and nominate your beneficiaries on a beneficiary form which you get from your pension provider or adviser. Find out more about how to pass on your pension savings to loved ones.

And as your circumstances change, update the beneficiary form. Perhaps there are new grandchildren or divorces in the family to take into account.

Remember to look after yourself

Finding a way through all of this isn’t always easy. But making the time to build your support network and arming yourself with the right information can make a difficult situation that bit better.

Ageing is not an illness but remember to look after yourself when caring for others.

It’s an investment in the future, your well-being and your family.

In his role at Standard Life, John Brewer works closely with the Association of British Insurers and the Society of Later Life Advisers to support the needs of the older population and their families.

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This information in this article is correct as of May 2016 and should not be regarded as financial advice.