Conversations on care: it’s good to talk

Research shows nine in ten people would like to be cared for in their own home. However, with three-quarters of older people not discussing their wishes with family members, care decisions are often left until crisis point.

Looking to the future can be very difficult; many find it hard to acknowledge the aging process and potential onset of illness. A recent survey found that people find it easier to discuss their will, funeral wishes, finances and medical issues than where they would like to be cared for in their old age. Research involving more than 10,000 over 50s showed that 77% of people do not discuss with their family where they would like to receive care. Men are less likely to express their wishes, with 89% admitting they had not had a conversation about care with their loved ones, compared to 71% of women.

Conversations about care can be charged with emotion and concern for a loved one, their independence, and their quality of life and it’s not just older people who find it difficult to discuss care options. Care UK recently released a survey which found two-thirds of people with parents over 60 had not discussed the issue of care with their mother or father. The Care UK study further reveals that a third of people would not feel able to accommodate their loved one in their own home should they need full-time care but feel ‘guilty’ at the prospect of arranging residential care. You can read more from the Care UK report here.

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The care conversation

Unfortunately in many cases it’s not until a situation reaches crisis point, through a fall or chronic illness where a loved one has to enter hospital, that a conversation about care takes place. Having plans in place before you reach a state of emergency can help you to see your options much clearer, with a practical view to your financial situation, care funding, and support network.

We understand it can be difficult or uncomfortable to discuss important care decisions with your loved one, so we’ve put together some top tips to help get the conversation started:

  • Plan ahead – start planning early whilst your loved one’s health allows them to communicate their wants, needs and preferences.
  • Get comfortable – pick a place and time that makes everyone comfortable. Make sure you are not restricted by competing obligations so you can have a relaxed chat, without watching the clock.
  • Involve everyone concerned – it’s important to include all decision-makers in the process from the outset in order to avoid conflict and confusion further down the line. Meet together before approaching your loved one to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
  • Be purposeful – let your loved one know your concerns and that you want to ensure plans are in place for the future so their needs and wishes can be followed later.
  • Communicate effectively – ensure you maintain good eye contact and use an even, controlled voice. Get close enough to your loved one – closeness builds trust and allows you to speak—and be heard. Make sure your loved one is an active participant in the conversation, ask open-ended questions that encourage them to share their feelings, and carefully listen to learn what is important to him or her.
  • Keeping it simple – it’s best to take small steps and not try to resolve everything at once. The aim is to share information and open an honest, ongoing conversation about your loved one’s future.
  • Where to begin? – discussing a relevant article in the local newspaper, or a friend or relative’s illness or medical emergency, could be one way to open the conversation.
  • Documents and records – ask your parent where they keep important documents such as insurance policies, tax returns, investment and banking records, living wills, and trust documents. Explain that you want to be prepared to help them when needed. It may be difficult to ask directly about financial and legal matters, and this approach may provide you with an opening to discuss what provisions have been made, and what may need to be done.
  • Offer options – you play a key role in providing resources and reading materials for your loved one on the choices available. It’s important to present more than one solution. Involve your loved one in the decision process, ask questions about their choices. Your loved one’s wishes are the critical factor, unless their health or safety is in question. You can find out more about different care options here.
  • Trusted opinion – if you find your loved one is resisting your efforts or the conversation is not running smoothly, it might be a good idea to involve a third party. Your loved one might be more open to the support and guidance of a respected non-family member such as a doctor, financial planner, trusted friend or neighbour, or a representative of a care provider.
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Contact us on 01903 691762 or at contact.uk@comfortkeepers.com for more information if you’re interested in starting a conversation about care with your loved one.