His subsequent recovery came as no surprise to anyone who knows dad: he’s never gone anywhere quietly in his life, and he’s not going to start now.
Christmas with dad will be lovely, but it won’t be like the Christmas of our childhoods, because the old caring roles have been completely reversed.
Things changed overnight when he had a major stroke in the summer of 2018, and among all his other medical challenges, he developed vascular dementia.
In some cases, this is how it happens: children take on caring roles, including looking after the finances, immediately and completely after a major event.
In other cases, our parents will stay totally on top of their money for life.
We all naturally face some cognitive decline as we get older, but for plenty of people this is a tiny, fractional business.
It would be spectacularly ageist to assume that intelligent and knowledgeable people become any less so during their 70s, 80s and 90s.
I’m sure 91-year-old Warren Buffett would have some stern words for his children if they tried to suggest he needed help paying his bills.
However, in between these two possibilities lie millions of people’s experiences, with far more complexities and grey areas to navigate. Sometimes parents will gradually need more help over time.
And while some will recognise their challenges and ask for help, some will try to hide their problems, and others will refuse support.
And while families wrestle with these complexities, it can leave older people incredibly vulnerable.
There are all sorts of reasons why parents may need help. They may lose mobility, which makes it harder to access cash. Alternatively, their sight could deteriorate, which could make it more difficult to manage their money online.
If they’re in a couple, and their spouse always dealt with the finances, them passing away could leave them at sea.
Sometimes, there’s no specific reason, just gradually over time they find it more difficult to stay on top of their finances.
The most effective approach is to raise this topic sooner rather than later, with parents who are managing perfectly well, but who appreciate that this may not always be the case.
That way you can work together on putting plans in place well before they’re ever needed.
You should talk to them about setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney.
There are two types: one allows someone they trust to make financial decisions on their behalf if they lose the ability to do it themselves.
The other allows someone to make health decisions for them. It means you can step in and manage their finances for them if you need to, easily and quickly.
They need to set this up while they have full mental capacity.
If they’re starting to find some things a bit difficult, but they’re perfectly happy being in charge of their own finances, you could offer to make things a bit easier.
You might be able to help them sort out direct debits and automate payments for their bills, so it’s one less thing for them to worry about. If they’re paying for care, you can offer to help with their care plan and make sure any care budget is allocated in the best possible way.
You can offer to be a second pair of eyes too, checking through their accounts once a month to make sure everything is going to plan.
You can ask them to set up a third-party mandate, which means you can arrange direct debits for them – and keep an eye on their spending.
It means you can look out for any red flags – like the same debit twice in a row, transfers of large amount of money or several small ones, or any other unexpected change in their spending habits.
If they‘re really struggling, and have lost the ability to make effective financial decisions, having a Lasting Power of Attorney means you can make sure all their bills are paid and shopping is done.
If they have problems with debts, you can cancel credit cards and any overdraft facility to stop them borrowing more.
If their spending has become erratic, you might want to set up a separate bank account to limit the funds they have access to.
You can also make it harder for scammers to approach them, with a call blocker for their phone, and by signing up to the telephone preference service and the mailing preference service, to cut down junk mail and nuisance calls.
Whatever stage you’re at, it’s not an easy transition. The only way to get through it is with love, patience, and a bit of understanding from everyone involved – which in many ways isn’t unlike the average family Christmas.