Alvaro Daniel Gonzalez Lamarque (Morguefile photos)

We now call ourselves the BCFA: the F for family, a concept that goes beyond just partners and children. 

One of the difficulties thrown into relief by an overseas posting is keeping in touch with the older generation, with one’s parents and other elderly relatives.

Thrown into relief because these difficulties exist for most of us, even during home postings—a parent in Edinburgh or Cornwall is a significant journey away if one is based in London. And as people get older, their needs tend to change.

Managing such change is not easy. Many of us already know from personal experience that people often do not want to think of a time when they will not be able to manage by themselves. When running the family home becomes too much, when something smaller or at least differently organised would make for a better life. When some kind of outside help is required for gardening, cleaning, cooking or, later on, even personal care. When changed circumstances raise the question of moving into a care home. But it is better for all concerned to sit down and work a few things out.

Aids and adaptations. Are there changes that they could make in their current home? To make it generally easier to manage? Preferably before it becomes a matter of change or move? Are there funds for this? Might there be grants?

Help in the home. What is available? How good is it? How much does it cost? Check out attendance allowance and other benefits—they are designed to keep people as far up the ladder of change as their health allows and are a universal entitlement.

Downsizing, or simply moving to an easier place? Best done before circumstances compel it. It may also free up funds for further needs.

Sheltered Housing: Could be an excellent move. Potential for new friends—independence without the downside. Again, check the funding—what are the service charges? Rent or buy?

Residential Care. Any glance at the news will show the potential pitfalls here. All the inspection reports, as many random visits as possible, in depth conversations with residents, management and carers. And find out how easy it would be to move on. All concerned are parties to a contract, never forget that and don’t be steamrollered!

End of life care. Is it provided at the care home? Worth checking, with just as much inspection as for residential care. Keep an eye on hospices. Even if you are convinced your parents will come to you at this stage it is still important to consider all eventualities with all interested parties before you leave the country.

The legal side. We have all heard of the power of attorney—this may be temporary or lasting. It may refer only to finances or it may cover care. It may be granted immediately or primed to kick in when strictly governed circumstances arise. Is there a will? Where is it? Who is executor?

All this works both ways, of course. For ourselves, we have promised to sort everything out with our children as soon as we hit 70. Or whenever—no hurry, after all...

Finally, here is a link to a website that I feel has lots of useful information:http://thepimperneltrust.org

David Sinclair-Jones