Only around a third of parents with elderly parents have had the ‘big conversation’ about their long-term care – even though more than 70 per cent are already providing regular support, according to new research from community website engagewithyou.com.
Further, data suggests the communication problem is two-way. Almost half of over 60 year olds that live on their own (45 per cent) say they don’t feel able to talk openly to their adult children about a range of important support issues that they worry about
reasons why we're not having the 'big conversation'
- More than one in two (55 per cent) said they would talk about the future needs of their parents and care when the time came to do something, suggesting many will be forced to react to events rather than plan ahead for them.
23 per cent said their parents were too proud to ask for help and 15per cent were worried they might upset their parents if they brought the subject up.
14 per cent didn’t think it was for them to start the conversation.
9 per cent admitted they had put if off as it would upset them too much to raise the issue.
Having a busy schedule appeared to correlate with not having had the care conversation. Whereas 40 per cent of adults with no children claimed they had discussed a care plan with their elderly parents, this fell to 26 per cent for couples with two or more children. Part time workers (42 per cent) and those not working (44 per cent) were also more likely to have discussed a care plan than busy, full-time workers (32 per cent).
starting the conversation
The engagewithyou.com research also suggests it is pointless for adults to wait for their elderly parents to start the conversation, as they too don’t feel they can talk openly to their adult children on a wide range of issues. A parallel engagewithyou.com survey asked 500 people over 60 which concerns they did not feel able to communicate with any of their children because they wouldn’t want to worry or burden them.
what elderly parents don't talk about
Of the 45 per cent who that said they wouldn’t be able to communicate with their children, the worries they wouldn’t raise included:
1. Struggling to pay bills 53 per cent
2. Coping with debts 47 per cent
3. Having a serious illness 40 per cent
4. Feeling lonely 38 per cent
5. Pension not covering living costs 38 per cent
6. Not being able to get about easily 31 per cent
7. General health concerns 29 per cent
8. Not being able to keep up with house repairs 27 per cent
9. Needing more help with everyday tasks (e.g. cooking)27 per cent
10. Wishing their children lived nearer 22 per cent
Karl Elliott, Director for the engage with you community website said:
“Across Britain today around seven in 10 adults are providing regular help to elderly parents and around one in four give a level of support that effectively classifies them as carers, whether they define themselves as this or not. Whilst it is good that so many adults are supporting their elderly relatives it is a huge concern that so few have sat down and had the big discussion on the future, putting a long term care plan together that is practical, workable and affordable.
“Our research suggests parents and their adult children are waiting for each other to start the conversation, which means it might never happen. One of the reasons we have set up engagewithyou.com is to give people access to advice, support and information so they can deal with issues such as how to start the big conversation with their parents. For anyone caring for parents it’s a conversation that needs to be had – and the sooner the better.”
The research was undertaken for Engage Mutual's engage with you community website by YouGov between 4-9 April 2012. The survey polled a GB representative sample of 1,008 people aged 45-60 who had elderly parents and 500 people aged over 60 who had adult children. Additional tables are available on request.