One of the dreadful aspects of being responsible for someone who is no longer responsible for themselves is that you have to face all the worst case scenarios and actually make provision for their eventuality.
Commuting between my mother’s house and mine constantly is a risk, as is any travel. A few years ago we did have an accident on a notorious stretch of road. Consequently it has become necessary to provide for the continuing care of my mother should I predecease her. If you had a great deal of leisure time and were a financial professional of some sort, it would be feasible to research the market and the available financial products yourself. One of the features of dementia is the time it takes the carer just to deal with the effects of the disease; there is little time left to research anything. I decided after a brief look around to consult an expert because my primary concern is that whatever arrangements I make for my mother have to be watertight and future proof. You might well say that if I am dead, I’m out of it. That’s true but the person who would be left with the problems would be my son.
The icing on our wedding cake had barely dried when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, leaving us providing for her welfare while we were still trying to set up our first house. It is fair to say that the outcome was that we never really caught up financially. I am very keen to stop this spreading down a generation, especially as my son already has crippling student debt, like most of the clever ones of his generation, who the government made agree to pay for their own education when they were still getting pocket money. I wonder why none of the lawyers who are eager to help us all take on the banks in a fight over mis-sold payment protection, haven’t thought of scrutinising the student loans with the same magnifying glass.
Even if it means paying a financial expert and a mortgage company a couple of thousand pounds upfront in fees, sound financial advice from experts that would restrict the contributions of my son to practical help and make my mother self financing, is money well spent. In the UK you need to look for someone with proper government accredited advisors. You might want to try a member of SOLLA at www.societyoflaterlifeadvisers.co.uk they are all accredited experts, who, most importantly, know all the right people to help you and are aware of charities and voluntary organisations and not just feathering the nests of their friends, which might happen if you stroll into an accountant’s office on the high street.
We went yesterday to speak to a SOLLA mortgage advisor to discuss options on an equity release mortgage. It is extremely fortunate that my parents had the foresight to put their state pensions into a building society. At the £10,000 a month the live-in care is costing, this has bought me a few months. In total the savings of many years will only buy six months of care at the present rate but it is a crucial breathing space that allows the expert to search for our best option and with the extra stipulations we need, such as an arrangement that even if the money runs out and the entire value of the house is used up, that my mother will not be chucked out on to the street.
When the present difficulties are over I intend to make financial provision for myself to be activated in the event of me being terribly old and horribly incapacitated that would still leave a little something for my son.
No matter what the family circumstances or current feuds, we all have to get to grips with the actual practicality of who might look after us in day to day terms and make provision for it. In most developed countries the expensive commodity is always the time of people. Until we all have personal robots and while we are all living longer because of the efficacy of modern medicine and when so many families are scattered round the globe we all have to ask the question: who will guide us to the toilet when our wizened old knees can’t do it on their own?
It’s horrible to contemplate but it is a dish, like revenge, which is better served cold. At present I am running to keep up; an unpredictable illness with sudden downward steps, all happening at a distance from the primary carer leaves so little time or brain power for things that are complex and demanding, even on a good day.
After the consultation, which took an hour, we popped in to see my mother and stayed for an hour or two, leaving just in time to catch the rush hour traffic. We drove through that with my husband swearing and shouting, both of us with headaches from high blood pressure, in the dark and tired.
If you are reading this early in the dementia of someone else, when you still have entire days off, this is the time to get the financial arrangements underway. If you are reading this and don’t have someone in this situation, then do it for yourself. The day could dawn when your own forethought and advance planning mean you can stay in your own home in your last illness, with the help you need. I think when any of us contemplate old age we do not see ourselves tied to a plastic chair in a care home smelling of urine and institutionalised dinners; we see ourselves in our own little place, pottering round a garden, entertaining our grandchildren and independent till the last day of our lives.
To make that happen you need the most mature person you know, who loves you more than anyone in the world, to do put a bit of forward planning in place and then leave a message somewhere it is easily found.
Some months ago, at the request of my mother, we visited a local care home, just to have a look. I was particularly surprised by the appearance of a nice looking lady resident, not that old at all, who looked completely out of place. She was sitting in the resident’s lounge, a dreadful corridor of a room with a dozen mismatched chairs. She had a bag of knitting beside her on the plastic chair and was doing the crossword. On one side of her the old lady was mostly busy dribbling, on the other side was an old man struggling to look out of the window. She smiled brightly as I passed; I wanted to rescue her.
Don’t end up a diamond in a dustbin. Make some plans today.
JaneLaverick.com – jam tomorrow.