Barefoot escapes balloons and cutthroat razors

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 Barefoot escapes, balloons
 and cutthroat razors

                                               Remembering the lives clients led before needing
                                               care creates a more rewarding relationship with them.
                                               Andrew Page explains his work with the elderly

     Andrew Page
     Ashcourt Rowan Financial                      have for some time specialised in       me. Her 83-year old mother had recently
     Planning Limited                              advising older clients – helping        been admitted to a local care home in
                                                   them, their families and professional   the early stages of dementia. She was
                                              attornies to deal with the issues            an income beneficiary of a trust set up
     1998 – date         Ashcourt Rowan       surrounding funding a stay in a              by her late husband, with the capital
                         Financial Planning   care home. The advice is often fairly        ultimately passing to her stepchildren.
                         Limited              straightforward – for example, there is      The stepchildren wanted access to the
     1997 – 1998         Financial Planning   a usually a need to cover a shortfall in     capital and sought to wind up the trust.
                         Manager, Nat West    income over an unknown timeframe.              While my solicitor connection was
                         Bank                    It is easy to tick the boxes in           asked to help negotiate an appropriate
     1996 – 1997         Financial Planner,   these cases. Assets? Check. Income?          capital sum to be paid to the old lady in
                         United Friendly      Check. Expenditure? Check. Medical           return for giving up her right to income
                         Financial Planning   information? Check. Ok, let’s get on with    for the rest of her life, I was asked
     1984 – 1996         Various roles,       providing a solution for the client. But     initially to ascertain how much capital
                         Barclays Bank        this approach used to leave me feeling       would be ‘fair’ based on her age and
                                              that something was lacking; that I wasn’t    health considerations. All in a day’s work
                                              really doing a ‘proper job’.                 for a financial planner.
                                                 Then I discovered the Society of Later      However, having spoken at some length
                                              Life Advisers, who taught me more            to the daughter, the case became much
                                              about the legalities around why I should     more interesting. It transpired that her
                                              ask questions like “Is the older person      mother was a member of the Prussian
                                              still themselves?” “Do they have capacity    aristocracy, and that she had, as a young
                                              to make these decisions?” and “Who else      girl, fled the Russian Army during the
                                              should be involved?”                         Second World War. This involved walking
                                                                                           barefoot across Europe with the horses
                                              Discover the past                            that she and her family bred.
                                              But these questions still don’t go             It was during this trip that she met her
                                              far enough. In my opinion it’s just          husband who was in the British Army,
                                              as important to take the time to             who had led a colourful life himself. As a
                                              understand who the older person really       result of all this excitement there is now
                                              is, and the life that they led before        some doubt as to her real age as she did
                                              requiring care – ie, making sure that        not bring any of her original paperwork
                                              they’re not treated as just some numbers     with her when she fled her home.
                                              in a spreadsheet! The recent Alzheimer’s       This information has brought the case
                                              Society campaign strap line “I have          to life – it is not only more interesting,
                                              dementia, I also have a life,” sums it up    but has meant that my subsequent
                                              pretty well, as does the following case.     advice and discussions with her have
                                                 I was introduced to a friend of a local   been very much put in context, and
                                              solicitor who regularly refers work to       made rapport building much easier.

xx     Money ManageMent ■ September 2010
                                                                                           IFA VIEW n FIRST PERSON

Stimulation and reminiscence                hand/eye coordination even at her age.      thoroughly invigorated by the
Another time, a chance meeting led          Her family happened to be visiting at       experience, and determined to fully
me to be involved with a local charity,     the time and were enjoying the session.     enjoy my job and investigate the lives
Alive! They specialise in providing a       The staff had been amazed at her skills     of my elderly clients.
range of stimulating activities to help     in previous sessions and could now talk
care home residents have a brighter         to the family about this.                   Why is this important?
life. I met the driving force of the           It transpired that the woman in          Taking the time to find out more about
charity, Tim, who is a very persuasive      question had been an excellent table        elderly clients is all well and good,
and passionate man. At his suggestion       tennis and tennis player in her youth.      although some may argue that it is
I joined him at two sessions at local       This helped the staff relate to her much    taking the ‘know your client’ principles
care homes.                                 better, and improved their relationship     a step too far. So what benefit have I had
   The first visit was to a home run by     with her.                                   from adopting this approach?
the local authority. This was enough           The second visit was to a privately         First and foremost I find my job
to completely change my opinion of          run home. Again a variety of residents      much more fulfiling than ever before.
local-authority-funded homes. The           gathered for the session although in this   It is fascinating to learn about the
low quality of care that I had expected     case not all had dementia. Again the        experiences that my clients have had
to find wasn’t there – instead I found      songs and poetry, and the balloon game      over many years. Life has changed
staff that were clearly very committed      brightened the day for everyone.            dramatically during their lifetimes and
to providing excellent care for their          On this occasion Tim ran through a       most have lived through a world war,
residents, including the sessions that      simple quiz. This had a great reaction      the invention of TV, not to mention
Tim ran on a weekly basis.                  from one woman in particular. She was       the arrival of mobile phones and
   The residents were all in various        the oldest woman in the room at over        the internet! Their perspectives and
stages of dementia and as such              100 – a fact proudly announced by one       opinions have served to give me a more
presented various challenges for Tim.       of the other residents.                     balanced view of life and to put modern
On this occasion there was one woman           One quiz question suddenly sparked       day living into context.
who was very restless but even she          a memory for her of her father shaving         All this has also given me a much
was dancing come the end of the hour!       with a cutthroat razor when she was         broader base of contacts within the care
He achieves this by using sing along        a little girl. This must have been 80       sector, enabling me to direct clients,
sessions to old favourites, Last Night of   or 90 years ago and she remembered          their families and indeed professional
the Proms conducting, poetry readings,      it as clearly as if it were yesterday. It   attornies to the right places to obtain
quizzes and even a ‘pass the giant          obviously was a very happy memory           practical and emotional support when it
balloon’ game.                              for her and she opened up completely        is needed.
   This game involved each resident         for the rest of our stay, talking very         More importantly it has helped me
catching or patting back an enormous        engagingly to me about her past life.       become a much more empathetic and, I
yellow inflatable balloon. This caused         It is the power of this engagement       hope, a better adviser to these clients. As
much hilarity amongst the residents         and reminiscence work that the              a result I have a much broader knowledge
as people headed it, or patted it back      charity does that is so impressive and      of the issues that older people face and
very hard to Tim.                           again brings home the importance of         now have a more deeply-rooted desire
   The most interesting element was         understanding the person involved,          to improve the lives of older people in
that one woman was obviously very            and being aware of their history.          care, not least by giving them quality,
good at this game and had excellent         I went away from both sessions              rounded financial advice.

                                                                                               September 2010 ■ Money ManageMent   xx

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