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Helping Hands study highlights importance of early conversations about later-life care

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Helping Hands has stressed the importance of families having early discussions about later-life care, to prevent delays in older generations getting the support they need.

The advice comes after new research revealed that fewer than one in six adults (15%) have spoken to their older relatives about their future support needs.

The poll of 1,996 adults shows that while 28% of respondents have had ‘casual conversations’ about care with their older relatives, over half (57%) have never broached the subject.

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The research also found that one in five people (21%), whose parents have needed care, say they wish their mum and dad had received professional help sooner, while 10% believe accidents in the home would have been prevented if they had had an earlier conversation about care.

Denny Bruce, branch manager of Helping Hands Solihull advises families to plan for the conversation in advance and has developed a guide to help them. 

She said: “Broaching the subject of care early will help families have all the information they need to hand when the need for care arises, and it will enable them to fully understand and reassure their relative’s concerns. Planning in advance also gives people time to postpone the conversation if it becomes too emotional – it’s important to remain as calm as possible during the discussions.”

The research demonstrates how sensitive a subject the need for care can be.  Of those people who have had an older relative needing care, only a third (34%) say they were happy to speak to them about it. 

A quarter (26%) say they were worried their relative would be uncomfortable having the conversation, and a similar number (24%) say they didn’t want their relative to think they were unwilling to help them. 

Nearly a quarter (23%) admit they were worried about offending their relative, while almost one in ten (9%) thought the conversation would lead to an argument. 

Many people put off discussing the need for care with their relative because of concerns over how they themselves would react – 24% say they felt uncomfortable, while one in five (19%) say they were upset having the conversation.

How people felt in advance of having a conversation with an older relative about their future care needs

How people felt before the conversation% of people who felt that way
I was happy to speak to them about it34%
I was worried they would be uncomfortable26%
I felt uncomfortable having that conversation24%
I didn’t want them to think I’m not willing to help them24%
I was worried about offending them23%
I was upset having that conversation19%
I was worried that having the conversation would lead to an argument or rift in the family9%

Helping Hands stressed that families not broaching the subject of care can not only lead to delays in elder generations getting the support they need, but can cause additional emotional turmoil for their offspring. Over a third (37%) of people say they have regrets about not talking to their loved ones about later-life care at the right time.

While younger generations may feel that the onus of discussing the issue of future care falls on them, Helping Hands encourages older family members to be clear with their children and grandchildren about their wishes. 

Just one in ten (10%) people aged over 55 say they have spoken to their younger relatives to let them know exactly what their expectations are – while less than a quarter (23%) have spoken about it casually.

Andy Hogarth, CEO at Helping Hands, said: “The potential need for future care and support in the home is a conversation that many families find difficult to have and it’s unlikely to be a single discussion, but lots of conversations over a period of time. 

“It’s important to have patience and be prepared to bring in support gradually – that way elderly relatives can get used to the idea without being overwhelmed by a sudden change in lifestyle. Having lots of conversations will also allow families to address the common obstacles we see in these situations one by one, rather than having to deal with all the challenges at the same time.” 

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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