Many people are returning from weeks away over the summer holiday season not so much refreshed as drained, and possibly distraught, having spent weeks looking after ageing parents and realising that the problems are only going to get worse.
This is what one friend has just been through. It has an important financial lesson, and I'm sure it will resonate with many.
My friend went back "home", as she does every summer, to find that her mother is losing her memory quite rapidly. She took advantage by telling her mum she wanted something different each time she was asked what she wanted for her birthday, figuring out she might end up getting more than one coveted gift, but this is no laughing matter.
My friend is worried. She is concerned because she lives on a different continent with her own family and has young children who very much need her, while her mother goes in for various medical appointments and cannot remember what the doctors say, let alone figure out what medications she's supposed to take or when. Increasingly, she is no longer able to look after herself.
My friend spent the bulk of her summer holiday going through everything in her mother's house. She was happy to find art work and scrap books from when she was at school, and old bikes in the attic that her children could put to good use, but she also came across many pieces documents and "things" just crammed into various nooks and crannies.
In an attempt to find out her mother's wishes regarding her possessions once she dies, she sat with her and asked her to write out a will, and whether she had any strong feelings about who gets what - but her mother insisted it was a waste of time.
My friend's conclusion was that she needs to sort out a power of attorney - and soon.
She believes her mother will deteriorate rapidly at some point and is concerned that the people around her would possibly not be acting in her best interest or in keeping with her wishes. She has spent a lot of time trying to discover what her mother would want for herself, her life and her well-being if various scenarios unfold. Plus she is concerned that other members of the family closer to home could take advantage of a vulnerable woman on her own.
Sounds rather calculating, doesn't it? But how much better that key issues are sorted out during her life, while she still has a say in what matters to her.
And if she doesn't have strong feelings regarding things like where she would live should she suffer a stroke or dementia, for example, and be unable to care for herself, then at least her daughter would have the legal capacity to act in her interest, and in keeping with what she would have done, given a choice.
Arranging to have the power to make decisions on behalf of your parent seems to smack of money-grabbing and deceit in some circles. That could not be further from the truth.
The whole point is for the parent to give power to another, named, person to look after their affairs when they no longer have the capacity to do so themselves. And for these issues to be discussed and defined in terms of what they are, as well as specify a time when - or the conditions under which - the power of attorney would be assumed.
This is about the ability to make important decisions regarding health, living arrangements, medical care and the finances of parents should they become incapacitated.
If you find yourself in the same situation as my friend, you will be facing significant emotional stress and distress dealing with the fallout and juggling your own life too. But if you've discussed it all with your parent when they were alert and able to give their consent, then, in a way, the emotional decisions will have already been made.
And what about you? How about setting out your preferences and decisions regarding these basic issues to spare your loved ones having to second guess what you'd want.
A double power of attorney is what we should all be looking to do, today, if we haven't already.