difficult conversations

Having difficult conversations with elderly parents

We may all be living longer, but it doesn’t seem like we are getting any better at having difficult conversations with elderly relatives about the future. Recent research by Care UK reveals that two-thirds of adults with parents over 60 worry about their care in the future.  However, most find it almost impossible to broach the subject with them. Even fewer – only 7% – have actually made any plans at all.

Where will elderly parents live?

Fewer than a third of those asked said they would consider having their parents live with them, citing the pressures of work, children, finances, other relationships, lack of space, one’s own health as factors in this response. The prospect of consigning one’s elderly relatives or friends to a care home is fraught with complex emotions.  Many of us think that a care home would probably provide better care than could be provided at home (ours or theirs).  But this doesn’t stop us feeling guilty.  It is therefore, not surprising that we find conversations about future care plans uncomfortable.

Making plans for the future

Yet it’s also true that when a decision ends up being taken under pressure or in a crisis, no one is prepared for it, there is no time to look carefully at options, and the anguish this causes is enormous. Any kind of conversation about future plans will give your parents more control over what happens later:

  • where would your parents like to live while still able to live independently (in the family home, in a smaller home nearer you, in a retirement complex?)
  • what would their ideal care look like if they have a choice (care at home, care in a particular residential home?)
  • what are their thoughts about power of attorney and an advance directive for end of life care?

The more we can talk about the future, the more we can understand each other’s priorities and preferences, the easier it will be to make the right decisions. These will never be easy conversations to have, but there is so much in the media now about planning and financing care, and it may be useful to use some of these public debates to initiate a discussion with your own family. Of course, even if you do manage to make a plan, events in the future may mean you can’t stick to it. But just having the conversation in the first place will mean that you have considered options and will be more ready to make a decision when the time comes.

There are so many difficult subjects you may need to broach with your parents, and there is some really good advice on the American site www.caring.com. They cover conversations about home care, residential care, giving up driving, family conflict, money, legal issues, incontinence, end of life… Some is specific to America, but there are some great tips to get you started.

Have you got any experience of broaching a difficult conversation with an elderly relative – successfully or unsuccessfully? We’d really love to hear from you. Join the conversation in the Age Space Forum and share your advice with others, or ask for their tips.