New research from Independent Age, the older people’s charity, has found that millions of older people are putting off difficult conversations about ageing until times of crisis, or not having them at all. To make it easier for people to start difficult conversations, the charity has launched a brand new online guide to help families talk with older relatives about ageing.
The research, carried out by ComRes for Independent Age, suggests that almost two thirds of those aged 65 and over (around 7 million people) have never had a conversation with their family about key issues including preferences for end of life care, where they would like to live if they can no longer live at home, and who will care for them. And more than a quarter of those aged 65 or over said they are not planning to discuss these issues in the future.
As it’s really important that these conversations aren’t left to times of crisis, the new guide aims to help families talk with older relatives, offering practical advice about when, where and how to speak with a loved one about the future and what to think about when raising difficult topics.
The guide covers the top five topics the charity thinks people should be discussing with older relatives. These include talking about getting extra help at home, whether anyone in the family can help, moving home if their needs change, making decisions if they lose mental capacity and end-of-life care.
The advice highlights the benefits of having these difficult conversations; the best time to talk about it; how to start the conversation, including overcoming the practical and emotional reasons for not starting conversations; and what the options and solutions for the various issues are.
Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said, “For many families, having these conversations will never be easy. For older people, it can mean facing the prospect of losing independence. For their relatives, it can mean facing the thought of losing a loved one or feeling overwhelmed by a sense of responsibility.
“But these are issues that only get more pressing with time. It is vital that families start talking about these issues now, so they’re not left making important decisions at times of crisis or suddenly struggling to cope with significant caring responsibilities.”
Anyone interested in finding out how to speak to older relatives about the future can access the Difficult Conversations online guide for free at independentage.org/difficult-