Liz Koh: Looking after the elderly

By Liz Koh

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A common problem many families face is getting elderly parents to spend money on their accommodation and personal health and welfare. This can cause immense frustration and, in extreme cases, a breakdown in family relationships. Children and grandchildren become burdened with concern for the welfare of their elderly family members and having to provide care the elderly refuse to pay for.

Financial conflicts most frequently arise over the costs of:

House cleaning and nursing care

Home maintenance

Moving to a smaller, maintenance free-home or a rest home

Purchasing aids for disabilities

Elderly people who won't spend money have usually had experiences early in life that have resulted in a deeply ingrained saving mentality. These experiences include war, depression, poverty and business failure. With age, frugality can become more entrenched. After a life time of doing without, it is not easy to start spending, which frugal people consider to be wasteful.

In some cases, elderly who won't spend have more money in the bank than they can possibly spend in their remaining lifetime. Although their reluctance to spend is not logical, it is understandable when psychological factors are taken into account.

Elderly people must at all times be treated with respect and, as far as possible, be allowed to make their own financial decisions. It is appropriate to intervene if there is danger to their well-being or if they are showing signs of senility or dementia. A doctor or counsellor can sometimes be more successful at intervening than a family member.

If you have elderly parents, encourage them to set up Enduring Powers of Attorney for their welfare and property so you can make arrangements on their behalf if they become mentally incapacitated. This should be done with the assistance of a solicitor.

Liz Koh is an authorised financial adviser. The advice given here is general and doesn't constitute specific advice to any person. A free disclosure statement can be obtained by calling 0800 273 847.

- Hamilton News

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