WE hear much about the challenges of an ageing society in terms of the cost of pensions, the health service and care.

Over-85s are the fastest growing segment of the UK population and there are more than half a million Britons in their 90s.

Of course, the fact that people are living longer is good news.

However, it’s also the case that as individuals live longer, they may spend more years in poor health.

Someone who is 65-years-old can expect to live to their mid-80s on average – about another 20 years. But for around half of this – nearly ten years – they could be in poor health, according to Government research.

With age also comes an increased risk of conditions like dementia.

There are now more than 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and it has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death among adults.

The decline in an older person’s health and ability to cope with daily life may come at a time when the next generation also have their own children to look after.

At Brewin Dolphin, we recognise the strain this “sandwich generation” can be under, facing twin pressures of helping older relatives and bringing up their own children.

In the past,when infectious diseases were common, death would often follow a relatively short period of illness.

But nowadays, chronic (long-lasting) non-communicable (ie not infectious) diseases are the leading causes of death – and this is often preceded by long periods of moderate and severe ill-health.

For families, these years of declining and poor health for older relatives can be a practical, as well as an emotional, strain.

Care does not just mean moving into a care home.

Most older people prefer to continue living in their own homes for as long as possible and there are a range of services and help that can be arranged to support them.

Care costs can be huge – more than £1,000 a week. However, there are other financial concerns for older relatives that families should consider.

While anyone could fall victim to a financial or other scam, older people are particularly at risk of being targeted.

They are often seen as more vulnerable.

Scammers tend to target people who live alone, are at home during the day, have money or valuables at home, and are more likely to talk to them. Sadly, this often means older people.

Loneliness might make older people more likely to talk to people or to trust them, while dementia could affect their decision-making.

Losing money to a scam can be very upsetting as well as expensive – the average victim of cybercrime loses £520, according to a Government survey.

Crucially, once your relative is deemed to have lost their mental capacity, it is not possible to create a power of attorney.

Without this power, loved ones have to apply to an official body called the Court of Protection to become a deputy to allow them to make decisions on behalf of the older person. That can be a lengthy and costly process.

Without access to the older person’s money and accounts, the family may have to pay their care costs and may be unable to stop direct debits or other payments from those accounts.

It is also important to note that while the loss of capacity could be the result of a slow-burn illness like dementia, a stroke or head injury could remove capacity without notice.

If your parent or older relative does not have a will, then at death their estate is shared out according to what are termed the rules of intestacy – which may not reflect their wishes and can cause unnecessary upset to the bereaved.

Likewise, even if your parent or elderly relative has a will, it may no longer reflect their current circumstances or wishes.

For example, if grandchildren have come along, your relative may want to change who inherits what.

Matthew Worton is a trainee investment manager at wealth management firm Brewin Dolphin, based in Newcastle.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily the views held throughout Brewin Dolphin. No director, representative or employee of Brewin Dolphin accepts liability for any direct or consequential loss arising from the use of this document or its contents. Any tax allowances or thresholds mentioned are based on personal circumstances and current legislation which is subject to change. The value of investments can fall and you may get back less than you invested. The information is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment advice.