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Why it pays to start planning for old age years in advance

By Nina Steele 

Working with the elderly has taught me how unpredictable old age can be and how important it is to plan well in advance. Of course, you don’t have to start contacting solicitors about drawing up a power of attorney if you are still young and capable, but at least, it pays to start reading up about these things in order to get used to all the options available to you once you get old.

Start thinking for example of who you may have to give power of attorney to in case you are no longer able to take care of your own affairs. If you are a couple, unless you die together, which we all will agree does happen very rarely, the reality is that one of you will be left behind to carry on with life on his/her own. Start planning what you will do in such a case. What if the person left behind has dementia for example? All these issues should be considered while you still have the mental capacity to do so.

According to this report by the Alzheimer’s society, dementia is on the increase and figures published in the same report show that in 2013, 815,827 people in the UK had dementia (1.3% of the UK population). The report also suggests that the number of people with dementia will ‘increase to 1,142,677 by 2025 and 2,092,945 by 2051, an increase of 40% over the next 12 years and of 156% over the next 38 years’.

Because it is a progressive disease, anyone with dementia will need to have the required support in place and giving someone power of attorney becomes vital in such a case. Usually, the spouse will be that person, but what happens when he or she passes away? For example, do you have a nephew or niece that you feel comfortable enough to give power of attorney to once the time comes? What about a friend or neighbour?

Also, if money is an issue, it pays to start reading about the many benefits that will be available to you later in life. You will be amazed how many people are completely unaware of such benefits. This is where charities for older people play a vital role. Most of them run an advice and information service where advisors are up to date with all the latest changes within the benefit system and will advise accordingly. They will also help with completing assessment forms, finding a solicitor and everything else that will contribute to an older person living with dignity. If you live in the UK, Age UK is the perfect place to start. They are the leading charity for older people and they can provide all the information you need.

It definitely pays to start looking into all these issues well in advance, particularly if you don’t have any children. Of course many older people do have children and still end up having to deal with their own affairs; it is never a one size fits all situation. The reason why I am bringing up the issue of children is because it is often the case that an elderly person will give power of attorney to an offspring and if like us you do not have any children, then you have to start thinking of someone you trust enough to give such powers to. It becomes even more important if unfortunately you end up losing your mental capacity to make decisions for yourself in later life and none of us can predict what will happen to us. The stakes are too high to leave anything to chance.

Childless

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