There is a lot of things to think about as your parents get older. For example, they may suffer from dementia at some point – in which case they may or may not want to keep on living in their former home and want to live in an assisted living facility. They may want to have help from you or move into your home, or indeed just have their independence. Here are the things you can discuss with them to ensure that you are prepared as they get older.
Making a will
It can feel like a thorny subject to get into because money is so personal and there is a desire not to offend – but what your parents want to do with their assets is a really important conversation to have – as if they don’t make a will, it is uncertain what might happen to the things they own. Even if they are not leaving their possessions to you, you need to make it clear to them that this is not a problem, and that it is something you would like to broach with them.
Inheritance they are passing on
On the subject of wills, it is also important to think about inheritance taxes. If, for example, they want to pass on their house, it is likely to be subject to taxes – and they may want to think about whether to pass any such assets on sooner. You may also want to talk through with them what happens when they start to lose their capacities – will they want you to be in charge of the paperwork of dealing with things like selling a house?
Putting money away in pensions
The subject of pensions is important because they may or may not be putting enough aside each month for them to have an adequate living when they are retired, or indeed to retire at a sensible age. Many workplaces have a pension plan in place, where your parents can contribute a set amount each month and it is matched by the employer. However, it may also be the case that they can invest in assets outside of their workplace – either through a government scheme that organizes pension funds or even through their own investments.
As your parents get older, it is likely that they will need help to do certain things in their lives, and it is not always the case that you will be around to give them that help. That is why it is so important to think about what they might want when they are older and talk things through with them, so you can work out where they will stay once they reach a certain age. You can research different homes, looking at websites such as that of Frontier Management, or even pay a visit to a home.
Often, it is the default that the grandma or grandpa ends up looking after the children – even if this is not always what they want to do. This is because it is assumed that the older generation would love to spend time with young children while the mom and dad are working – even if this is not always the case. On the other hand, it is sometimes the case4 that children are not handed over to the grandparents during the school holidays because the parents are thought to be wanting a rest. It might be wise to talk through with your parents what they actually want, before jumping to any conclusions about what is the best thing to do.
What others in the family have done
It is also worth, in these situations, thinking about what other people in the family have done. For example, if grandpa was looked after by my family when he started losing his capacities, this may not mean that grandma will be the same. Grandma may be keener to be sociable and even keen to go into a retirement home. It is hard to make assumptions about what any one person in the family might want off the basis of what others did.
You may also want to discuss what your parents will want to do with their time once they retire. For example, if they enjoy reading, you could buy them a bookcase and lots of books. You could get them gardening equipment if they love being outdoors. You can help them with what they want to spend their time on, if only you know in advance in order to support them in what they do. This kind of thinking will also help with considerations around retirement age – they may not want to retire any time soon if their main “hobby” is work, and they would find it boring doing anything else.
The last thing that people often don’t want to think about as parents get older, is making and keeping memories. The unfortunate truth of life is that we all die at some point, and therefore you may want to make sure you make your final memories with your parents; thinking about all the things you want to say while you can and the things you want to do together. Similarly, you may want to ensure they have passed on all their memories to you – whether it is recipes that have been passed on through the family for generations or photos for posterity.
These kinds of considerations are so hard to take account of. No-one wants to think of their parents as getting old, or the things that need to be done in such a scenario – we like to think things are unchangeable and will be this way forever. However, they often will not – which is why it is better to think of these things now – both the practical and the sentimental – and how you can enjoy your parents’ old age and final moments when they come, because you have done all the stressing over things in advance.