Families in the South East are putting off difficult conversations about ageing, charity says

The charity Independent Age is warning that people are failing to plan ahead for family members who are getting old.

Monday, 11th July 2016, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 2:44 am

Research carried out for Independent Age suggests that more than two thirds of adults in the South East have never had a conversation with their family about key issues including their 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.

The report found that while the vast majority of the public believe that it is important to talk to older relatives about these issues, only a minority have actually had these conversations:

- 81 per cent of adults in the South East said it was fairly or very important to talk to older relatives about ‘who will care for them when they are older’, but just 20 per cent said they had done so

- 82 per cent in the South East said it was fairly or very important to talk to older relatives about ‘where they would like to live if they could no longer live at home’, but just 18 per cent said they had done so

- 81 per cent in the South East said it was fairly or very important to talk to older relatives about ‘their preferences around end of life care’, but just 16 per cent said they had done so

The charity says that by putting off difficult conversations about ageing, families risk making rushed decisions about care, health, housing and financial matters at times of crisis.

Independent Age has today launched a new online guide to help families who want to talk to relatives about ageing. It lists the top five conversations the charity believes all families need to have, as well as information and tips on how to start a conversation.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, said: “It’s not always easy to talk about getting old with loved ones, so we understand if families are tempted to put off these conversations. But having these conversations won’t be any easier later down the line, and families risk leaving it too late.

“We run a helpline for older people and their families, and we speak all the time to people having to make rushed decisions at times of crisis, perhaps after a fall or hospital admission. The families we speak to only want the best for their older relatives, but if they haven’t had the conversation, they may struggle to know what to do.”

The charity say it is only getting more important for families to have these conversations.

“Cuts to social care budgets and a rapidly ageing population mean fewer people are receiving care from local councils, and older people are increasingly reliant on informal care from family members or left facing huge care bills,” said a statement from Independent Age.

“It is estimated that the number of older people living with a disability will rise from 2.9 million to 4.8 million between 2015 and 2035. Over the same time period, the number of disabled older people receiving informal care is projected to increase from 2.2 million to 3.5 million.

“According to figures from ADASS, local councils provided 400,000 fewer people with social care services in 2013/14 than in 2009/10.

“But Independent Age also says that families should not just be left alone to deal with these difficult and often complex issues. A range of key agencies – from information and advice providers, to local authorities and to the NHS – must improve the accessibility of information on care, to help people have meaningful, informed conversations.

“Previous research from Independent Age has shown that 70 per cent of local authorities who responded to a Freedom of Information request are not providing online information in all the areas required of them by the Care Act.

“And Independent Age says the Government needs to rebuild confidence in the future of the health and care system. Whether it is reports about 15 minute care visits, neglect at care homes or a struggling NHS, public perception of health and care in later life can be poor. To make decisions about their future care options, people first need to have faith in the care and support that is available.”

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