Have you seen or heard the Lloyds Bank “The M-word” campaign? It was apparently created in response to research from Lloyds Bank that showed money is a bigger taboo in British families than politics, sex or religion.

Well I would add “care” for elderly loved ones into that list of “taboo” and my goal is to get families to realise that these conversations are a part of a healthy family relationship and planning for the future.

You are not alone

Research at Which? in 2018 showed that 64% of people surveyed would find it difficult to talk to a loved-one about moving into a care home.

These conversations are best started early, and from my experience of the families I have supported, I would recommend by the time your parents are in their 60s.

Yes, we are living longer and healthier lives, but even so, accidents or incidents can happen that take us by surprise. We tend to accumulate more chronic health conditions as we age which can be much better managed nowadays, but if one goes out of kilter it can have serious knock on effects.

So, when is the right time to start the conversation?

I was recently asked this question when giving a presentation to a group of people in their 40s and 50s and it is a very good question.

If your parents are already in their 70s or 80s and health and care have not been discussed it can be difficult, especially if the reason for needing to have the conversation is that you have started to notice some of the below examples:

  • They seem to be struggling with everyday tasks.
  • You have noticed that they’re finding it increasingly difficult to get around.
  • You have concerns over their ability to drive safely.
  • You’re concerned that their memory might be failing.

It can be tempting to stay quiet in order to avoid upsetting your parents, but if you have serious concerns about their health, safety or wellbeing, the sooner you talk about it the more time you will have to put in place support that works for them and the longer they should be able to stay independent in their own home.

Preparing to talk

If you possibly can then try to plan this by considering what you want to say and choose a calm, private and comfortable place to say it. Perhaps their own home where they feel safe and comfortable.

If you have discussed this as a number of siblings and are in agreement it may be best for just one or two of you to broach the subject so that it does not feel like a delegation. Also make it clear it is a two -sided conversation not an ultimatum.

A cup of tea, a smile and relaxed body language will help.

Timing is also important, does your loved one have a “best time of the day”? Do you? i.e. not late in the evening or just before you have to dash off! Make sure there is time for everyone to have their say.

Don’t expect instant decisions but do try to set a reasonable timeframe. You may have been planning what to say for a while but your loved one may feel ambushed if you expect instant decisions. They need time to think, and if there are two of them, discuss privately.

Do bear in mind that in order to know what choices are possible you may have to (at some point) discuss their finances, wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney.

Opening lines

This can be difficult if you have had to steel yourself for the conversation. Although, once started, you may find that they also feel like this and have been wondering how to start the conversation. If you approach it with their best interests at heart and listen as well as speak you should be able to decide together how best to tackle your joint concerns. You could try:

  • “I/we have noticed that…….”
  • “I/we thought you seemed worried about……’
  • “I/we wondered whether………”

Don’t try to deal with everything at once. This is just the start of what will hopefully be a more open and comfortable way to communicate.

If you would like any further advice or support please do contact us.

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