Unreality TV Strikes Again ...

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There was more sadness last week on TV's vale of tears, EastEnders, as the Carters gathered to send off Sylvie — the Gran of the clan who recently electrocuted herself in the bath.

As is to be expected, the soap's claim to reflect "reality" was sorely challenged by the storyline. For starters how did the cash-strapped Carters pay for her funeral?

Sylvie had dementia; and she had no plan in place. And funeral services don't come cheap. The average cost in London is just under £3,700 (more if it's a burial). That covers the cremation, the minister, the funeral director and local authority fees.

Granted it was a restrained affair by soap standards. Albert Square funerals traditionally involve a horse-drawn hearse, and a team of four shire horses costs £1,800

But even if Billy Mitchell did it at mates' rates, the cheapest you can get cremated for in East London today is around £900, not including the other costs.

And as regular viewers know the struggling family couldn't even afford to fix the Queen Vic's leaking roof.

Maybe they put it on Vincent's purloined credit card...

This was the perfect opportunity for the writers to bring home the soaring cost of funerals — they've more than doubled since 2004 — and show how the Carters could and should have handled their grandmother's final years.

For starters, as soon as Sylvie was diagnosed with dementia they should have persuaded her to give a trustworthy family member (there must be one of them) Lasting Power Of Attorney).

That would have allowed Tina, say, to help her make decisions or make decisions of her behalf.

A Property & Financial LPA would have let her manage Sylvie's bank and/or building society accounts, pay bills, collect her pension or sell her home if she'd had one.

The Carters should also have looked at putting a funeral plan in place.

These start at around £2,900 and consequently would have eased the burden when she passed, leaving the family just to pick up the tab for the wake (in this case, four Canning Town pensioners bang on the gin).

The soap has striven to "educate" viewers for decades, and yet here they missed a golden opportunity to explain simply how best to deal with a relative who is sadly afflicted with dementia and how a proper plan can reduce both the cost and the stress of funerals.

This handy, easy to read information pack explains how it could be done ...

Garry Bushell, April 2017

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