OK I’ll admit it. I’m a fan of Radio 4’s The Archers. I haven’t been for too long, but certainly since before the much-lauded Helen and Rob Coercive Control storyline, and I grew up with the theme tune every Sunday morning at home. I’ve since found out that many more family and friends are listeners too. Sometimes they admit to it sheepishly, others are very upfront about it. I think it’s definitely a soap you ‘age into’.
Whether you’re a fan or not, The Archers has good storylines, and not just sensationalist. Quite a few of the themes cover issues of the day – coercive control, the prison system, homelessness, no-fault divorce, Brexit. (I’m less interested in Herbal Leys.) So, the lawyer in me is interested, from a professional point of view, much more often than with pretty much any other drama on radio or TV. And now we have a storyline which touches on my particular area of interest – later life planning and care provision and funding. I realise this sounds like I’ve made, what could be a vaguely interesting storyline, horrifically boring, but bear with me for moment, because the fact is that the majority of us will need care and support as we age.
So, for those not up to speed, here’s the situation:-
Auntie Chris (widow, 87) shares a house with friend, Peggy (widow 94), and is relying on the capital she received from the sale of Woodbine Cottage, having lost around £300,000 to evil scamster, Matt Crawford. Auntie Chris is very sweet and sociable, but we have had regular clues over the previous number of months that her memory might be failing – could this be a dementia plotline? However, all of this has been overtaken by a sudden health crisis in the form of a trip on the evil cat, ‘Hilda Ogden’ (don’t ask), resulting in a broken hip, hospital and mobility impairment. Housemate Peggy, dealing with her own dementia backstory so won’t hear of a care home, wants to look after Chris at home.
For those professionals dealing with elderly clients, this isn’t actually very far-fetched. An elderly, financially vulnerable person with capacity concerns has an unexpected health crisis which brings everything into sharp focus. All of a sudden, she and her support network will now have to put in place a care plan, work out care provision, decide how it’s going to paid for and provide practical physical and emotional support, all with no notice. To make things more interesting (and common), Auntie Chris’ own family is geographically remote and not really interested anyway.
How do we even start with dealing with this sort of situation? I’m not going to put everything down here – I’ll do a few blogs covering the issues as we go along. However, it seems to me, to varying extents, we need to cover:-
- Immediate care planning – where is she actually going to live?
- Care assessment generally
- Suitability of the house as a care setting
- A Carer’s assessment
- A financial Assessment and funding decisions
- Welfare benefits
- Financial Advice and investment
- Capacity – is there are power of attorney?
- Ongoing monitoring for heath and finances
- The emotional impact on Auntie Chris, but also her carer – stress, guilt, loneliness Peggy’s legal position, as a carer and, potentially, in terms of helping pay for the cost of care
- What does Auntie Chris want? How does she want to be treated?
- We may even have to look at Auntie Chris’ wider family – will they sense imminent demise and start hanging around as potential beneficiaries… (lawyers love a family fight)
This is a pretty complex and (non-exhaustive) list. If you were presented with this situation, how would you cope? Happily, this is what I do, right the way down to care finding and funding. So, if you know someone elderly (or if you are planning to be elderly at some point), you may find this series interesting, if only to prompt you or, say your parents, into getting some planning in place early, before a health crisis hits.