Minding the money: a growing responsibility for informal carers
Managing the assets of older people is a common and potentially complex task of informal care with legal, financial, cultural, political and family dimensions. Older people are increasingly recognised as having significant assets, but the family, the state, service providers and the market have competing interests in their use. Increased policy interest in self-provision and user-charges for services underline the importance of asset management in protecting the current and future health, care and accommodation choices of older people. Although ‘minding the money’ has generally been included as an informal care-giving task, there is limited recognition of either its growing importance and complexity or of care-givers' involvement. The focus of both policy and practice have been primarily on substitute decision-making and abuse. This paper reports an Australian national survey and semi-structured interviews that have explored the prevalence of non-professional involvement in asset management. The findings reveal the nature and extent of involvement, the tasks that informal carers take on, the management processes that they use, and that ‘minding the money’ is a common informal care task and mostly undertaken in the private sphere using some risky practices. Assisting informal care-givers with asset management and protecting older people from financial risks and abuse require various strategic policy and practice responses that extend beyond substitute decision-making legislation. Policies and programmes are required: to increase the awareness of the tasks, tensions and practices surrounding asset management; to improve the financial literacy of older people, their informal care-givers and service providers; to ensure access to information, advice and support services; and to develop better accountability practices.(Accepted September 6 2004)
Key Words: care-giving; asset management; financial abuse; substitute decision making.
c1 Cheryl Tilse, School of Social Work and Applied Human Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia 4072, Australia e-mail: C.Tilse@social.uq.edu.au