That’s the simple but important message from carers featured in a new NSW Government campaign to encourage people to act now to ensure their future financial, legal and health decisions are respected.
The “Get it in Black and White” campaign will feature TV and newspaper advertisements promoting the Planning Ahead Tools resource, which provides information for carers and families, as well as health and legal professionals, on making a will, making a power of attorney and appointing an enduring guardian.
Speaking at the campaign launch this morning, NSW Minister for Ageing John Ajaka said that research conducted to inform the campaign found many people did not understand what they needed to do to plan for later life, or what help was available.
“Only 5 per cent of people could correctly explain what a will, a power of attorney and an enduring guardianship are,” he said.
While 85 per cent of people expect to take care of some aspect of their parents’ health, financial or legal needs as they age, only 29 per cent have had an in-depth discussion with their parents about their finances, while just 36 per cent have discussed their health or medical needs, Mr Ajaka said.
“So when the crunch time comes, what are they left with? In many cases, it’s a matter of guessing what we believe they would want.”
Mr Ajaka, a former lawyer, spoke of “uncomfortable experiences” receiving phone calls from clients who had parents in hospital and urgently required legal assistance.
“Please rush to the hospital with the will, with the power of attorney, with enduring guardianship, so they can sign it. I would go with the documents and with shaking hands the documents were signed. I would think to myself, this should have been arranged long ago,” he said.
NSW Attorney General Greg Smith told the launch that while 98 per cent of people surveyed thought it was worthwhile getting these documents organised, they often failed to act because it was difficult. “It requires us to contemplate difficult issues and have difficult discussions with loved ones,” he said.
Indeed, in one campaign video, carer Nan Bosler spoke of the need to have “the courage to have a straight forward conversation that will save you a lot of heartache and emotional stress later on, if you have those three documents in place.”
Mr Smith said that 45 per cent of people had not given any serious thought as to what would happen if they died or became incapacitated. While the number of people who have a will has been steadily increasing over the last 10 years, 43 per cent of adults still do not have one.
“This has to change. With an ageing population, the demand on our courts and tribunals to make an order for the management of a person’s financial affairs and health and lifestyle decisions are sure to escalate,” he said. “It’s not right, it costs money, it causes a lot of trouble in families with a lot of friction sometimes. These should be decisions for the individuals themselves, not the courts.”
Mr Ajaka said the campaign was about encouraging all adults to take control of their lives, to get the information they need and make the decisions that are right for them.
“The Planning Ahead Tools website is an incredible resource, covering a wide range of relevant topics, providing pointers to where people can take action to make a will, how to choose an executor, appoint a power of attorney and appoint enduring guardianship.”
The site also has sections to help healthcare and legal professionals who may be dealing with ageing patients. Advice on how to make these important decisions and have these important conversations is also available, he said.
The resource was developed in consultation with Carers NSW, Alzheimer’s Australia, The Aged-Care Rights Service, Older Women’s Network and COTA NSW. Members of the Chinese, Greek, Arabic, Italian and Vietnamese communities were also consulted to ensure cultural sensitivity.
For more, see the Planning Ahead Tools resource.
Related AAA story: Making time to plan