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A family conversation you must have:

Why we all need to take control, make plans for the future and get it in black & white.
By Motherpedia
Date: November 29 2013
Editor Rating:

Despite widely reported increases of illnesses like Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, strokes and cancers, latest research shows most Australians are not prepared for the possibility something adverse could happen to themselves or their ageing parents.

While the significant majority of adults with ageing parents (85%) expect to be involved in some aspect of decision making for their parents should this be required, 71% have not discussed with their parents how their finances would be managed. A further 64% have not spoken about what medical or health treatment they would (or would not) want, 66% haven’t discussed their housing options and 58% have not spoken about how their parents wish their estate to be distributed after they die.

It is a behaviour that needs to change according to a new campaign from the NSW Government, known as ‘Get it in black & white’ that encourages people to seek out the right information, have these conversations now, and take control of their own plans for later life while they have the capacity to do so. 

According to Imelda Dodds, CEO NSW Trustee & Guardian, if you leave it until it is too late, loved ones may be left guessing your financial, health, and living needs.

“This is often the last thing you need at a time that is likely to already be stressful and overwhelming. Similarly if you don’t have a Will, your estate and your loved ones may not inherit,” she said. 

Ms Dodds said this will mean loved ones will have to go through time-consuming application processes at a tribunal to obtain permission to manage the affairs of parents.

Recent research carried out by NSW Trustee & Guardian showed only 5% of Australian adults have a clear understanding of the documents that relate to pre-planning – a Will, Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship.

Developed by experts from the Office for Ageing, NSW Trustee & Guardian, Public Guardian and NSW Ministry of Health, the campaign encourages people to seek information and take action, directing them to

The online resource provides straightforward information about how and why people need to take control and make legal, financial and health decisions now rather than waiting until it is too late.

“We like to believe things only happen to other people and that somehow we’re invincible, but the truth is we are not and we should all prepare for the future,” said Ms Dodds.

“Planning for later life is like having an insurance policy in place – except it covers your health and financial requirements, and ensures your loved ones are looked after when you are no longer around.

“To prepare legal documents, such as a Power of Attorney, an Enduring Guardian or a Will, you need to have the legal capacity,” she added.

Earlier this week, Motherpedia contributor, Sue Brown, wrote about her family’s efforts to ensure that her father’s care wishes are met and Intensive Care Specialist, Dr Gerry O’Callaghan, wrote about Advance Care Directives earlier this year.

Sue Brown makes the point that many people are looking after older parents whilst also maintaining their own family and career.

“Knowing what your parents want, and having all the right documentation in place has been very helpful for us,” she says. “Likewise, I advise my children to make sure they have a provision for guardianship of their children under 18 in case anything happens to them.

“It’s not a matter of thinking the worst. It’s just a matter of being prepared," says Sue Brown.

Ms Dodds said has been developed to suit different audiences and needs. It includes a section for health and legal professionals as well as individuals wanting to find information for themselves, carers or families.

Information is also available in 13 community languages and has been developed in conjunction with Greek, Arabic, Chinese, Italian and Vietnamese community leaders, and as well planning ahead information written specifically for Aboriginal people.

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