Who will handle your affairs when you are no longer able to do so yourself?

By Nina Steele 

I was reminded the other day of how important it is to plan for old age. A lovely man I know in his 80s has been unwell recently, and the only person who has been dealing with is affairs is threatening to walk away. That person in question is not a blood relation. He is estranged from one of his children and the remaining one is not so keen on taking over the task of handling his father’s day to day affairs.

That task has until now been handled by a family friend who is now finding it increasingly difficult to juggle her own life and that of an old man with massive health issues. Listening to that story confirmed my belief, since I have been working for an old people’s charity, that in most cases, having children does not make much difference to the lives of old people.

Family feuds apart, busy lifestyles mean that the close family structure that gave past generations confidence that their children will one day be taking over their care, no longer exists. It is now pretty much every man for himself, and those old people fortunate enough to still have a close relationship with their children are becoming a rarity.

In the many cases that I have come across, it is not that the children do not care, it is just that they feel overwhelmed with their own lives. Matters are made worse when the old person also has health issues, and unfortunately, most do.

As I keep saying, planning for old age is something everyone should do, regardless of whether you have children or not. If you are still years away from retirement, talks of power of attorney may seem a bit over the top. However, with dementia on the increase, I believe that if you are in your 40s and 50s, and particularly if you are childless, you should seriously start reading up about this.

Even though people with children may end up not seeing much of them in old age, my experience shows that in many cases, power of attorney is given to an offspring. So at least in that sense, having children has a plus side, because it means that you don’t have to look far. But of course, a childless person may not have to look far either, as neighbours and friends are increasingly playing that role too. If as a childless person you do not feel comfortable with letting other people into your life, then a firm of solicitors may be your best bet.

Whatever you do, start seriously thinking of what options are available to you. Leave nothing to chance. You don’t want to be one of those sad cases, where social services have to be involved.

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