Of the estimated 13.6 million unpaid carers in the UK, 26% of the UK adult population are currently caring for an elderly, disabled or ill relative or friend – with those aged 35-55 most likely to be shouldering this responsibility1. Caring for an elderly parent is no small task, placing emotional, physical and financial stress onto those required to assume the role of carer. But there are also moments of joy when caring for loved ones, even if it’s simply watching a film together or just spending time as a family.
Like most of the challenges we face, it’s a situation we can improve with careful planning and open communication. We’ll take a look at a number of ways that could help you to budget, care for, and protect your elderly parents.
1. Start the conversation early
There’s never an easy time to discuss the topic of care with an ageing parent. However, the earlier you do, the easier it’ll be for the both of you to put a comprehensive plan in place, and to find comfort in knowing that your parent will never be left to face any uncertainty alone.
When talking to your parent, here are some ideas you may wish to discuss:
- Any current diagnoses and medical requirements – such as medication and regular appointments. If you have a family history of any particular illnesses, consider factoring in the higher risk of inheriting these when planning for future care.
- Common changes in capacity that are associated with ageing – including reduced mobility, isolation as socialising becomes logistically more difficult, and an impaired ability to complete routine tasks. Knowing these, means that your parent’s quality of life will always be at the fore front of any decisions made.
- Their current and future finances – such as income, costs, savings, pensions, investments, assets and debt. Having a clear view of their financial situation will allow you to better understand how their care will be funded.
- Legal documents and protection cover – as being aware of when an insurance claim may be possible and making sure that they have a will in place, could help to ease the burden on yourself should any difficult or unfortunate circumstances arise.
- Your situation and how much you’re able to commit to caring for your parent – whether that be financially or physically. You could consider issues like your locational proximity, the time you have available, your personal needs, financial support, and whether you hope to be hands-on or hands-off with the care provided.
- The nature of the care your parent may require as their situation and health changes – such as in-home (for example, visits from a care agency, live-in carer) or out-of-home (for example, independent living communities, assisted living communities or residential care).
After this conversation, both yourself and your parent should have a clearer and realistic view of the future – so that their later years can be some of their best.
2. Helping an elderly parent to budget
To avoid the financial burden falling onto you, it’s important to implement a financial plan for funding the care your parent will receive.
The first step is to draw up a realistic timeline of the financial resources that’ll be available to your parent as time progresses. By keeping track of monthly, or annual incomings and outgoings, as well as monitoring the value of any savings and assets over time, you’ll be in a better position to plan for the funding of the care solutions your parent will require as they age. The creation of a financial plan is no small task and there may be value in getting expert support from a financial adviser. You can find a financial adviser through MoneyHelper. A financial adviser is likely to charge for their service and should provide details of their charges upfront.
Although there’s no way of definitively knowing how their health and medical requirements will change over the coming years, it may be beneficial to include in their financial plan rough ideas of when your parent could require specific care solutions. For example, you might expect your parent to need in-home care from the age of 75, or suffer an illness that falls under the terms of their insurance policy at the age of 80.
Some points to consider when administering their financial plan:
- Regular conversations – as life moves at a rapid pace, speaking regularly with your parent will help you both to understand when adaptions to the financial plan are required.
- Budgeting apps – despite the possibility of limited technological knowledge, budgeting apps can help you and your parent to keep track of their finances.
- Power of Attorney – there may come a time when your parent becomes unable to make the best decisions for their wellbeing. Power of Attorney is a legal document, signed by a competent adult, that grants another the authority to make decisions on their behalf. In the UK, there are two types: Health and Welfare, and Property and Financial Affairs2.
3. Getting the most from their retirement funds
First and foremost, it’s important to recognise what investments and sources of income your parent has access to.
- The State Pension – this is an income provided by the UK Government, where the value is based on how many years someone has paid National Insurance whilst working. While the State Pension probably won’t be enough to support your parent on its own, it can be a useful addition to their retirement income. It can be claimed once they’ve reached their State Pension age.
- Private and workplace pensions – they could have a private pension(s) especially if they were self-employed in the past and are more likely to have at least one workplace pension if they’ve had an employer.
- Savings and other investments – chances are they also have an easy access savings account of some sort – they could also have an Individual Savings Account (ISA) or a General investments Account (GIA) too. Understanding the terms and conditions for these accounts could help your parent plan for getting the most out of their investments.
When it comes to retirement, pensions can provide people with an income that allows them to maintain their quality of life as they get older. You can read our article on ‘How to plan for retirement - a step by step guide' which provides information about the different pensions your parent may have and how to trace and track any lost pensions.
Remember that investments can go up as well as down, and you (or your parent in this case) might get back less than was invested.
4. Protecting your parents from fraud and scams
Unfortunately, elderly people are often the targets of fraud and financial scams, as criminals look to take advantage of their unfamiliarity with technology. As well as causing undue stress and damage to their wellbeing, such criminal activity could also lead to financial losses that affect the ability to fund your parent’s care.
Here are some top tips to consider, lessening the likelihood of your parent becoming the victim of fraud or a scam:
- They should hang up on cold callers without giving out any details and not let anyone into their home unless they’re sure they are genuine. Making regular calls or visits to your parent will help you to keep up with any suspicious activity targeted at them.
- Setting up technological safeguards is a great way to reduce the likelihood of your parent encountering a scam. To help avoid telephone scams, your parent could sign up to the Telephone Preference Service – it will opt their phone line out of the register that enables unsolicited callers to get in touch. For door-to-door scams, installing a video doorbell can act as a deterrent to cold callers, as well as possibly helping to provide evidence in the aftermath of an attempted or successful scam.
- In the unfortunate situation where a scam has been successful, it can be beneficial to have a plan in place that outlines how you should respond. Remember it’s important to notify your bank or pension provider as soon as possible, and they’ll always be happy to help authenticate any suspicious activity.
5. Get more support
Caring for an elderly parent is hard for so many reasons, but there are a number of organisations that may be able to help you with providing care, financial concerns, and emotional support.
You can arrange for a home assessment of their property by getting in touch with the local council. They’ll identify possible adaptions that could be made to their home (for example, stairlifts, ramps, a walk-in shower) and should fully cover the cost of any small alterations, which cost less than £1,0003.
Both yourself as the carer and your parent as the recipient of care, may be eligible for financial support from the government – including the Carer’s Allowance and the Personal Independence Payment. Benefits such as these can help you to fund the care your parent requires.
Lastly, there are number of charitable organisations that can support you through the emotional strain that can come with caring for a loved one. For example, Age UK, the country’s largest charity for elderly people, run their advice line – a phone service that is open 8am to 7pm, 365 days a year, purely to provide emotional support to those who have selflessly assumed the role of carer.
Knowing where you stand and keeping the conversation going
As we all live a little bit longer, the responsibilities we hold are ever-changing – none more so than the support our parents need as they inch further into their later years.
Providing care to a loved one is a daunting task that can be unsympathetic to your time, finances, and, most importantly, your emotions. However, it can be made easier with a little bit of planning and open communication – and there will always be support for you when times are at their most difficult.