Throughout London families are avoiding the difficult conversations that are needed to help deal with an aging population – often until it is too late.
According to new research from Independent Age, the older people’s charity, two thirds of adults in London have never spoken about issues such as end of life care preferences, downsizing homes, or even just who will help take care of them.
The research, which was taken by ComRes for Independent Age also found that while almost everyone believes that talking to older relatives is important, very few actually have such conversations.
With 84% of adults in London saying it was “fairly” or “very important” to talk to older relatives about ‘who will care for them when they are older, just 27% actually had discussed it.
Likewise, 81% of people in London 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”, on 28% did.
In response to the release of the study, Independent Age warned that by putting off difficult conversations about ageing, families risk making rushed decisions about care, health, housing and financial matters at times of crisis.
46% of those surveyed said that their elderly family members’ preferences for end of life care was among the three most difficult issues to discuss.
When ComRes asked which factors might stop them having a conversation about preparing for older age, almost 62% said that they did not “not want to worry or upset the person. However, nearly half also admitted to “not wanting to face up to the issue” and “not knowing how to start the conversation.”
To combat the silent crisis, Independent Age has 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.
Chief Executive of Independent Age, Janet Morrison, 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, she adds, “having these conversations won’t be any easier later down the line, and families risk leaving it too late.”
Morrison goes on to explain “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.”
An estimated 4.8 million older people will be living with a disability in 2035, up from 2.9 million in 2015. According to figures from ADASS, local councils provided 400,000 fewer people with social care services in 2013/14 than in 2009/10.