Business

Leave that ‘emotional will' as well as your ‘financial will'

The needs of our loved ones come first but we have to know what they are.
Peter McGahan

THERE comes a time for us all when we need care. For some it’s earlier than we thought, for others, it’s later.

When illness strikes, it can be arbitrary in its brutality and unfairness.

In a head-spin of emotions, we somehow must make clever financial decisions we perhaps would be struggling to make in normal conditions, and often the person we want to support may not be of the right mental health to communicate their needs and wishes.

There are emotional and financial needs. They’re quite something.

The needs of our loved ones come first but we have to know what they are. So have the conversation.

My mum was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within two weeks aged 59. We said a lot. I didn’t follow one basic instruction: ‘Get me out of this place’ meant she wanted to go home. I was young, emotionally ill-equipped and didn’t act.

Dad then gave the same instruction. Everything was discussed and it happened to perfection. Having comfort they passed away in peace is a great tonic for those left behind.

So have that conversation now, while you can, and leave that ‘emotional will’ as well as your ‘financial will’.

Here are some basic tips for both parents and dependents:

  • Speak to your solicitor and make a power of attorney now so those you trust can make decisions for you if you become incapable. Without this, life will become pretty unbearable for the dependents as they try to negotiate with banks, utility bills etc. Don’t worry about ceding control, the appointment is for when you are incapable of making decisions not before but there is often little warning and time to prepare.
  • Families should involve both parents in the thoughts. Trust me. Think about how they are thinking and feeling, rather than how you feel about how they are thinking and feeling.
  • Turn to your GP for a diagnosis first and have it set out in a formal letter as it will be useful in dealing with authorities later. Assess at that point when care may be needed. The GP may also refer for a mental health assessment at this point which will be essential when looking at assessments for other costs.
  • Contact adult social services as soon as is possible. They are there to help and an individual social worker will be appointed for your parent/relative. They will also work with any mental health assessment team if appointed to gain a complete understanding of your family’s needs.

At this point a care needs assessment is carried out as well as a financial assessment to determine if you will need help in paying for any care home fees or for help in your home. The adult social services team will provide a booklet which will give you an up-to-date explanation of what is included when assessing you for these costs.

If a parent is staying at home, a care company will be contacted for you and if required, meals can be organised. Keep interacting with adult social services to keep them on your ball.

It’s a lot for them to multi-manage many family situations but I found it easy to communicate. Moreover, be clear now what your plan is from the above conversations.

I made it clear when carers were to arrive so dad organised his sleep, food/care and time for the craic when people came round to talk about all those great memories. After all, that was what life was about, he said, “making memories”.

Look into all the benefits available ie a full time sole carer’s allowance and attendance allowance. A council tax reduction is also available for those with dementia for example, so complete the severely mentally impaired form to go to the local authority.

Next week I’ll cover the financial planning aspects, but to end this column I’ll pause to think of the paragraph in this column nearly 20 years ago when my mum was ill and how relevant it is for some friends today.

“In 50 years, the size of our problems, cars, bank accounts and houses won’t matter, but the world will be different if we are important in the life of another person.”

Peter McGahan is chief executive of independent financial adviser Worldwide Financial Planning, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. If you have a financial query, call Darren McKeever on 028 6863 2692 , email info@wwfp.net or visit www.wwfp.net.

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