Talking about ageing is an unpopular topic of conversation for many older adults, new research suggests.
The study, commissioned by Independent Age, found that millions are putting off these difficult conversations until they reach a moment of crisis.
Raising these points and discussing them with older people while they are fully capable of understanding and making an informed decision about their preferences can help make arranging their care easier down the line.
Although few people want to think it will happen to them or their family, dementia care and other areas of treatment can be incredibly personal, so knowing that you are acting as your loved one would have wanted, can take a considerable load off your mind.
This is especially important for palliative care, as many people are unable to make the decisions for themselves when it their health reaches this point. This time, which is already extremely difficult for loved ones and relatives, can be made much more stressful if you are unsure about what care options they would want.
However, the research shows that many people are finding these conversations too difficult to have with their loved ones, which could potentially make things more difficult further down the line.
Conducted by ComRes for Independent Age, the study suggests that nearly two-thirds of people over the age of 65 don’t talk to their family about their care preferences. This equates to around seven million people who may be missing the opportunity to influence their healthcare later in life.
Topics that were not talked about included what type of care home they’d like to live in if they can no longer live independently, end of life care and who they’d prefer to look after them if they needed help.
More than a quarter of these participants aged 65 or over said they had no plans to discuss this with family in the future.
The charity warned that delaying these conversations could risk their families having to make rushed decisions about care, health, housing and financial matters at times of crisis, when they are likely to be distressed and worried.
When looking at which topics were most difficult to discuss, the survey found that nearly half (46 per cent) cited ‘preferences for end of life care’ as one of the top three, while ‘who will care for me when I’m older if I need it’ (42 per cent) and ‘where I would like to live if I can no longer live at home’ (34 per cent) also ranked highly.
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.”
However, she said these issues only get more important as time goes on.
“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.”