Talking with older people about money

While most people think it’s important to talk to an older relative about where they would like to live if they could no longer live at home, very few have actually discussed this with their loved ones. It’s important to talk through the options.

Tips on what to talk about

Thinking about needing to leave your home is one of the hardest issues to face, so it could be an incredibly hard conversation to have.

Leaving emotion out of it can be difficult because of the huge life changes ahead – for you and your relative.

Things you could discuss include:

  • who will care for them when they’re older?
  • where would they like to live if they can no longer live at home?
  • who might they like to make decisions for them if they no longer can?
  • what is their vision of how their end of life care will look?
  • are they struggling with their finances? If so, what would they like to do about it?
  • are they having problems with their memory?

The main thing is, the sooner you talk about it, the better.

It’s important not to leave it to the point when your relative needs urgent care. As the only choices available at that point may not be what they really wanted, and this could make things more stressful for everyone.

What’s the best way to get the conversation started?

  • Keep things general. Talk about others who have been through similar experiences recently relating to care, and how they are dealing with it – the good and the bad.
  • You could talk about what you would want when you’re older, so the conversation remains open and inclusive.
  • If you bring the subject up early enough, you can speak very generally about care homes. You can gauge their wishes then, so you can act appropriately when the time comes.

Talking with siblings about parents’ long-term care

If you have siblings, you might need a separate conversation on how to best work together to make sure roles and responsibilities for the care of your parents are clearly set out.

If the responsibility falls on one sibling, they could easily get resentful of the others. And those who aren’t doing the caregiving could feel guilty for not being able to help out as much.

You might prevent relationship problems further down the line by talking about what’s possible and practical to give, so everyone is clear.

Things that are good to agree in advance could be:

  • who will tell your parent if you feel the time has come for them to move residential care?
  • who will take the responsibility for arranging a move into care?
  • who will take responsibility for telephone calls from the care home?
  • how will you share visiting responsibilities?

Consider talking about a family care contract, in which the family member taking responsibility of the parents gets paid from family funds. This could reduce resentment and offer other benefits, including:

  • allowing your parents to remain at home
  • receive quality care
  • financially rewarding the individual who’s providing that care.

It’s worth being aware that a family care contract is a legally binding document. So the carer and other siblings need to understand the implications of what’s involved before setting one up.

There can also be complications in the future if your loved one becomes eligible for direct payments for care, as there are different rules about employing family members depending on where you live in the UK.

You can find out more on the Carers UK website

Talking about paying for care home fees

According to The Live-in Care Hub, nearly half of people surveyed said that not knowing how to start the conversation might, or has, stopped them having a discussion with their family. While just under 2% have spoken to a financial adviser about care costs.

Find out more on The Live-in Care Hub website

Working out the best way to pay for care home fees can be extremely complicated and it’s worth planning ahead.

To find out more about how to have conversations with an older relative, including practical tips and advice on how to make important decisions, go to the Independent Age website

Talking to someone about power of attorney

As we see people close to us getting older, we can start to worry about how they’ll make good financial decisions in the future, particularly if they lose mental capacity.

One of the most important conversations we can have to help our older relatives is to talk to them about how they would want decisions to be made about their property and finances if they were no longer able to make them for themselves.

The best time to do this is when they are feeling fit, well and able to say what they would like to happen.

Day-to-day help

There are lots of ways you can help someone to keep on top of their bills and everyday money decisions. For example, by offering to open post, help with paperwork or going with them to appointments at the bank or building society.

Power of attorney

If they have to spend a long time in hospital which would make financial decision making difficult, you could talk about setting up an ordinary power of attorney.

This is a temporary arrangement that allows you or a named person to look after their money while they’re not able to manage.

However, to make sure your loved one is protected if they were to lose mental capacity, you could try to talk to them about setting up a lasting power of attorney.

This gives a named person legal authority to make important financial decisions on behalf of someone if they’re unable to do it themselves. It usually kicks in when they lose mental capacity – but can be whenever they choose it to start.

Waiting until someone has lost mental capacity before setting up a lasting power of attorney makes things much more complicated and can delay urgent decisions, such as paying for care home fees.

You would need to get medical proof the person no longer has mental capacity, then ask the court to appoint someone to oversee their affairs. It’s expensive and your loved one might end up with someone making decisions about their life they would not have chosen.

Conversations about power of attorney can be triggered by:

  • seeing a leaflet, TV show plotline or newspaper article on the subject
  • something relevant happening in your life, which means you can ask leading questions, such as ‘My friend’s mum is thinking about moving into a care home. Is that something you would want to do when you get older?’
  • your loved one being given a medical diagnosis that might mean their mental capacity will deteriorate
  • making a will – it might now be a good time to encourage them to consider a lasting power of attorney.

It’s really important that you respect your loved one’s views and make it clear that you’re not trying to take over their financial affairs. However, it’s worth explaining:

  • they might prefer someone they love (you) to make decisions for them, rather than a stranger
  • setting it up doesn’t mean you have to give up control – usually the power of attorney will only come into force once it’s been registered
  • that you can cancel your power of attorney at any time – but you must have the mental capacity to make that decision
  • it takes around eight to ten weeks to register a lasting power of attorney, so waiting until someone is showing signs of losing mental capacity is not a good idea.

How to talk about money

If you’re worried about how the person you want to talk to might react and want help on how to handle a conversation about money, including about care issues, download our Talking with older people about money (PDF, 227KB) guide.

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impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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