What to think about : A guide to Elderly Care

It isn’t easy to look ahead and predict what you might need or are likely to need. But is important to do so as the more prepared you are now the easier it will be to make important choices later on.

None of us can predict exactly how our lives will proceed but it can help to put a few things in place so that you are prepared when the time comes.

You will have been used to planning for the future throughout much of your life. This may sound strange but if you stop to think about it you have been planning the following activities or events:

  • Going to university
  • Buying a home
  • Looking for a job
  • Starting a family

All of these require you to do some research, talk to people and ‘shop around’before making a decision. Planning for your later years is no different.

Living longer

Thanks to advances in technology and medical science, many of us live longer than previous generations. Longevity has increased and is still rising although there may be a fixed upper age limit of 120.

But some people argue that this could be increased even further.

On average, men live to 77 and women to 81. More people are living to 100.

This is fine if you are fit, well and able to manage your own affairs but is a different situation if you are not.

Given that the majority of us will reach old age then what should you be thinking about?

Think about your physical health, mental wellbeing, relationships with others (important if you live on your own), and ability to manage your finances. You will be used to running a home but what would happen if you couldn’t manage to do your laundry or food shopping?

Age-related diseases

The longer we live the greater the risk of age-related diseases such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. There are different forms of dementia but the most common form is Alzheimer’s disease which affects more than 700,000 in the UK. This figure is likely to rise to 1.4 million over the next 30 years which has massive implications for our society as a whole. (Source: Alzheimer’s Research Trust)

Alzheimer’s usually affects older people and around one in 20 people will develop this disease. This rises to one in five at the age of 80. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease will eventually require 24 hour care in a specialist facility such as a nursing home. This is an intensive and demanding type of nursing which requires a high level of skill and experience. Not to mention empathy and compassion.

This disease starts off at a mild stage and gradually progresses to a severe stage which requires 24 hour care.

At present there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease but there are treatments available which can slow down the progression of this disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by several factors which include age, head trauma, poor diet and genetics. There is a risk of inheriting the gene for Alzheimer’s but this is very small.

Other diseases related to ageing include:

  • Strokes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Varicose veins
  • Short term memory loss
  • Incontinence

These are mainly due to the fact that parts of the body are wearing out and don’t function as well as they used to. This is why you will find it takes longer to recover from an illness or injury than in your youth.

Changes in income

Another important consideration is your finances. Your income will fall once you retire which will probably mean living on a fixed income. Unfortunately the cost of living is increasing which can make it difficult to make ends meet.

Retirement may be viewed as time of cruises, gardening and golf but the reality is somewhat different. For many people it can mean a drop in living standards and having to economise.

Older people also tend to spend a greater portion of their income on heating and food.

Added to this is the fact pensions have declined in value and there has been only a minimal increase in the state pension which has caused hardship for many families.

There are a range of social security benefits designed to help elderly people such as the Pension Credit, cold weather payments, Attendance Allowance and Carer’s Allowance. Carer’s Allowance is paid to someone who looks after you if you are severely disabled.

Find out more about benefits and pensions through the DWP website (see our links page).

What concerns many people is if they require care later on in life then how will they pay for it? Their income will be less than when they were in employment and yet there is still the worry of paying bills and generally, managing on a day to day level.

And then there is the issue of paying for care. If you require help at home or in a care home then you will need to think about how to pay for this.

At one time this was all taken care of by the State but things have changed, mainly due to the fact that people are living longer. The State still provides a basic level of care for the poorest people in society but if they think that you can pay some or all of the cost of your care then you will be expected to do so.

This is covered in greater detail in our paying for elderly care section.

Another factor and one which many people tend to put off is that of a making a will.

Making a will

Many of us don’t like to think of what will happen after we are gone but it can’t always be avoided. The thought of making a will seems such a gloomy one that we tend to put it off or ignore it completely.

But, it is important to make a will so that you can decide who will inherit any property and/or possessions after you are gone.

If you don’t then you are said to have died ‘intestate’: this means that your assets are distributed according to what the law says, rather than in line with your wishes.

The rules for deciding who inherits what in England and Wales differs from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Another very good reason for making is a will is to avoid paying an unnecessary amount of inheritance tax. Plus it will take much longer to sort out your affairs after your death than if you had a will which can be upsetting for your family.

Do you need to see a solicitor?

The answer to that is no if the will is going to be straightforward. However, it can be a complex thing to do which is why it is worth consulting an independent solicitor to do so. Another option is to use a firm of professional will writers.

The advantage of having a solicitor check over your will is that he or she is trained to spot any errors which could be costly in the long run. They are familiar with the legal jargon and can ensure that you get the will which is right for you. In particular, there are situations in which it is advisable to have a solicitor such as the likelihood of several family members making a claim from the will or if there is a business involved.

Making a will may seem but a good solicitor will demystify the process for you. It needn’t be expensive either: you can pay as little as £100 or even less for a will although the cost will depend on how simple or not the will is.

Appoint an executor

What you need to do is to appoint one or two people as your ‘executors’. This means that they are legally responsible for overseeing your will and making sure that your wishes are carried out exactly as the will dictates.

You can appoint a couple of members of your family but if you are likely to have a large, complex estate then it may be better to appoint someone who is skilled in this area. When you have drawn up your will then make sure it is locked away in a secure place. Another option is to leave it with your bank or solicitor. If you decide to make any changes to your will then the original document must NOT be altered in any way. Your solicitor will help you to draw up an amended (called a ‘codicil’) will or a new will.

This is not the most pleasant of subjects to think about but it is important to do so.

That takes care of what will happen after your death but what about your affairs whilst you are still alive? If you were unable to manage your affairs due to a stroke or a form of dementia then who would do this for you?

Note: by ‘affairs’ we mean your financial and/or legal dealings. You may assume that your partner or children will take over your affairs but this is not automatic. Unless you legally nominate them to manage your affairs then these may be handled by the Court of Protection.

This means nominating someone as your Lasting Power of Attorney.

Lasting Power of Attorney

You have to sign a legal document to nominate someone as your Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This can only be done whilst you are ‘of sound mind’.

You can ask a solicitor to set this up for you or use the form on the Office of The Public Guardian website.

This has to be registered with the Office of The Public Guardian to have any legal authority. You can have two types of LPA:

  • Personal welfare
  • Property and affairs

Once your LPA is registered it can be used at any time, whether you are of sound mind or not.

You can cancel this at any time you wish – before it is registered.

It is a good idea to seek advice from a solicitor before you decide to appoint someone as your LPA.

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