Ah, winter. The most wonderful time of the year! Unfortunately for those professions who deal with death and its aftermath, it is also the busiest time of the year.
Last year, the Office of National Statistics reported 525,000 deaths in England and Wales. Over half a million. Statistically, the winter months see an average of 27% more deaths than the non-winter months, with the majority of deaths occurring among those over 75 years old.
The fact that more people die during the chilliest season probably won’t come as much of a surprise, but the reasons behind it might.
It would be an easy assumption to make that this is down to the Great British Weather, however research has shown that it is not as simple as to blame a drop in the thermometer readings. So let’s consider what are the likely suspects for this increase? Why is it that an individual is more likely to be “no more” from December to March? To cease to be; to be bereft of life, to rest in peace; to be an ex-parrot. Too many sausage rolls? Drinking nothing but fortified wine? Can’t face yet another repeat of Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special? All potentially contributory factors but none of which are cause alone.
In fact, globally, the majority of countries suffer from “excess winter deaths” compared to their more temperate counterparts.
Whereas it would be a not unreasonable assumption to think that when the weather is cold outside we’re going to be much more likely to get ill, research has shown that is not actually the case. Indeed, there is no overall correlation between a cold winter and a rise in excess winter mortality.
“If we look at Scandinavian countries, which generally have much, much colder winters than we do, the number of excess deaths in those countries is much lower,” says Claudia Wells, head of mortality analysis at the Office for National Statistics. Indeed, the excess deaths in warmer countries such as Portugal and Spain are much higher. Yet both the Scandinavians and Southern Europeans have similar overall life expectancies.
Neither are winter deaths linked to socio-economic status. Whereas when you look at the year round average of mortality rates, there is a clear correlation between the deprivation in an area and the number of deaths, but the seasons alone do not have a monopoly on these statistics. Geographical evidence analysed by the BBC showed that in 2012, the relatively affluent county of West Sussex saw 48.3% more deaths occur during winter than the rest of the year. By contrast, there were no excess winter deaths that year in Ceredigion where one in five people are in fuel poverty.
While they say more research is needed to confirm the true cause, the researchers suggest a combination of medical care and will power could be at play.
Many studies have attempted to explain the phenomenon, with contributory factors varying from additional emotional stress, changes in physical environment (such as those travelling away from home to stay with friends or relatives) and changes in diet and alcohol intake to be to blame.
In a study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that many patients delay medical care while the Christmas holidays are underway, and some may even hold off death to experience the festivities one last time. As a result, this could contribute to a delay in seeking treatment and exacerbating an illness.
So, whilst it would be foolish to say that the cold weather doesn’t play a part, it is perhaps not as deadly as some might expect. However, in general, it does remain true that if you live in the North East of England you have a higher risk of dying than if you live in London, where the death rate is the lowest in the UK (must be something in all those jellied eels and chim chiminey-ing).
It’s never too early to plan for the future and prepare your Will. Speak to a member of the team at legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at email@example.com.
Unfortunately fellas, it is a proven statistic that ladies are winning in the longevity stakes, compared to their hairier counterparts.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics have the average female’s life expectancy coming in at 88.3 years, with the chaps not far behind at a nevertheless none too shabby 85.6 years.
Reasons for this difference are down to a variety of factors; socio economic, geographic and last but not least, being unbelievably stubborn (presumably). In addition, recent data from the ONS also uncovered that different jobs can also affect people’s life expectancy, and not just for the obvious reasons (needless to say, supervillains and Road Runner pest control operatives don’t fare too well).
The study concluded that for both sexes, if you work in a higher managerial position or in a professional occupation, such as a doctor or architect, you can expect to add an additional 365+ days onto your life. If on the other hand you work in what is classed as a ‘routine occupation’ (such as a lorry driver, bar staff or labourer) then statistically, you can shave off just over a year.
More men and women from professional jobs are likely to make their magic 100th birthday than those not working in the professions. Indeed, men are a whopping 3 times more likely to reach this milestone, compared with their non-professional male counterparts.
Since the mid-1980s when this 30-year study commenced, life expectancy across all jobs has been steadily increasing. This is brilliant news. Against all the odds, and in the face of constant nuclear and cold war threats, hairspray related holes in the ozone layer and a diet consisting almost entirely of microwavable meals, e-numbers and Findus Crispy Pancakes, we made it out the other side. Well done everyone!
Naturally, the longer you live, the more risk you have of developing various illnesses. Nearly 60% of those aged 80 or over have a disability. The leading cause of disability, ahead of stroke, heart disease and some cancers, is dementia.
And therein lies the poignant issue; whilst a long life in certainly something to be applauded, surely a happy, healthy and fulfilled life is what we all strive for?
Obviously, none of us can predict the future. For every base jumping, bomb disposal expert who dies peacefully in their sleep well into their 90s, you will have a sensible, cautious, risk assessor who gets hit by a bus at 26. We are only on this beautiful planet for such a short amount of time but being in a job you dislike is certainly one way to make the days feel longer. Life is, quite frankly, too short. So follow your bliss to make the years happy ones, regardless of what job you are in. It’s not particularly realistic to think about changing your job to try to affect the statistics, but it is worth planning ahead.
Whatever your vocation, everyone should have a Will in place, and one which is reviewed from time to time to reflect changing circumstances. Given that the chances are increasing of developing an illness which might affect mental capacity, everyone should have a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) set up too.
Legalmatters will definitely be receiving a telegram from the Queen (or presumably the King by then) congratulating us on our centenary. A heady mixture of the best clients in the land and a steady stream of cake, means job satisfaction levels are through the roof and eternal life is surely on the cards.
But if loving your job really is the key to a longer life, surely you can’t get better than the recently advertised ‘International Gin Taster’ as a key to eternal youth? Legalmatters imagines that the successful ‘gintern’ may well live forever (if indeed, their liver can keep up). Chin chin.
Whenever we spot a new wrinkle or grey hair, we often pause for a moment and consider how the years are rolling by. Most of us at some point will also worry about how our health might deteriorate in our later years.
In a recent study by a national law firm, 75% of respondents said they worried about getting older and 70% were specifically concerned about developing dementia. Surprisingly, despite these worries, only 5% had made plans to deal with such an eventuality.
When someone develops an illness such as dementia, or is involved in an accident that takes away their capacity to make decisions for themselves, someone else needs to make decisions for them. But nobody has the automatic right to do so. Neither your partner nor your children nor your closest friends and relatives can, unless you have specifically given them permission in advance in the form of a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
An LPA can only be made while you have the mental capacity to do so. If you lose capacity to make your own decisions and there is no LPA in place, your loved ones will need to apply to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy to make your decisions for you. They can apply to be appointed as your deputy, but it will be the court that makes this decision rather than you.
It costs £82 to register an LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian.
On the other hand, the costs for setting up a deputy via the Court of Protection are more expensive. The application fee is £400 for each type of deputyship: health/welfare and property/financial affairs. An appeal, if required, is another £400 and if the court decides a hearing is required, that’s a further £500. In addition, there is an assessment fee of £100 for new deputies and an annual supervision fee.
No-one likes to consider what may befall them in the future. It’s a much easier job to plan for though if done in advance. The financial and emotional cost for your family to deal with it after the event can be significant. Perhaps most importantly of all, LPAs allow the individual concerned to document their wishes around what happens to them at a later date and decide who will make those decisions on their behalf.
For help preparing an LPA, please call legalmatters on 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When the UK made the decision to depart the European Union last year, the actual departure seemed a long way off. Although the thought of leaving loomed, the process of exiting was thought of as distant – simply another thing for politicians to worry about.
As we begin to enter the negotiations, however, it seems that the ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude is faltering, especially among retirees.
According to recent research, 14% of those who have retired are worried about the impact of Brexit on their pension, with 19% saying they are now much more likely to seek financial advice.
Although market volatility was almost certain in the initial aftermath of the referendum, most believed that the markets would calm after the storm. However, retirees believe that the clouds haven’t cleared just yet; over one in four predict that any negative impact on their pension will be for the long-term.
It’s obvious that people are worried about the consequences of leaving the EU, but some have gone further than just expressing their concern. Due to Brexit anxieties, just over one in ten of those who had made plans to retire in 2017 have actively postponed their retirement, with 6% even changing the country that they planned on retiring to.
Having looked at these figures, you might be under the impression that just about everyone is worried about the impact of Brexit on their pension. It is though important to balance the numbers of those who are concerned, against those who are less so. In fact, the figures show the majority of people (67%) felt their retirement plans had not been affected by Brexit at all. One in eight even thought that leaving the EU would impact their pensions in a positive way.
Retirement expert at Prudential, Kirsty Anderson, commented on the concerns of retirees, as well as the importance of seeking advice:
“As you would expect, for many people who have been planning and saving for their retirement for most of their working lives, even the biggest of political upheavals won’t make a difference to their long-term plans. But with one in three new retirees telling us that their retirement plans have been affected by the referendum result, it is clear that uncertainty is having an impact for some.”
Although worrying is a natural reaction to being unsure about something, it’s rarely helpful. Rather than providing an answer, it just allows the concern to escalate and often causes us to worry even more. It might be impossible to know how Brexit will affect you exactly, but adequate planning will at least make your financial future a little more certain.
As well as guiding you through the process, talking to an expert at legalmatters can help clear up any concerns you may have. Be more certain about your future by speaking to one of our professional team today – call us on 01243 216900 or email us at email@example.com.
At breakfast this morning, a woman said to her husband: “My memory is getting really poor, I went upstairs yesterday to get something and by the time I got to the top of the stairs I had forgotten what I was going for.”
The husband said: “How bad is your memory?”
She responded: “Sorry, what were we talking about?”
Old jokes are always the best, but early signs of a loss of memory are an uncomfortable reminder of the aging process and certainly no joke. Some of us will inevitably get dementia or other debilitating conditions that could result in the loss of mental capacity.
Do you know you what happens if you or your partner becomes unable to make decisions for themselves due to old-age memory issues or dementia? Potentially you can find yourself in a position where you cannot pay for services or make decisions, without lawyers and something called the Court of Protection) being involved. It’s an expensive and long-winded process. That is, unless you have written a legal document called a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in advance of your loss of mental capacity.
The Citizens Advice Bureau website says:
“You should make an LPA if you have been diagnosed with, or think you might develop, an illness which might prevent you from making decisions for yourself at some time in the future.
“The kinds of illness which might prevent you from making decisions for yourself include:
- mental health problems
- brain injury
- alcohol or drug misuse
- the side-effects of medical treatment
- any other illness or disability.
“You must make an LPA whilst you are still capable of making decisions for yourself. This is called having mental capacity”
At legalmatters, we are experts in writing Lasting Powers of Attorney and talking you through the pitfalls. Whilst no one wants to think about the potential of problems in later life, writing an LPA could save you and your family considerable cost and grief in the not too distant future.
Call us today on 01243 216900 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no obligation discussion about these issues.
According to Age UK, each winter one person dies needlessly every seven minutes. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are steps we can all take to help our elderly relatives though the cold months, when they are at their most vulnerable.
Call or visit them
When the weather turns particularly cold, elderly people are less likely to leave the house. This may cut them off from human contact, leaving them lonely. If they are unable to get out and about, try to call on them – it will raise their spirits and leave them feeling less isolated.
Cook them a meal
It’s also a really good idea to share a meal with them where possible. This has a couple of benefits – for a start, you know that they will have eaten something decent and warm that day, which is extremely important. You will also be providing them with company and companionship, which is vital to keep their spirits up as the temperature falls.
Help with the shopping and any prescriptions
If they are stuck inside, then see if you can help with their food shopping. Ensure that they have a decent supply of all of the essentials.
You might also help pick up any medical prescriptions they may have, or find out if their local pharmacy has a delivery service they can sign up for.
Protect them from falls
When the weather turns cold, their steps and the pavement around their home may turn icy. Take round a mixture of salt and sand to put down in icy weather. Speak to your council first – some provide free bags of the mix. Alternatively, head down to a hardware store where you should be able to pick some up.
Turn up their heating
Low temperatures increase the risk of flu and other respiratory problems, and can also raise blood pressure. Ensure their main living room is heated to 21°C, and the rest of the house heated to at least 18°C.
Ensure plans are in place
Making sure your elderly relatives have a valid will and lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) in place to help with decision making is crucial, not only to ensure their wishes are taken care of, but to relieve the burden they may have in worrying about the future.
If you would like help with estate planning for an elderly relative, please call 01243 216900 or email us at email@example.com.