The older people’s charity independentage.org has produced a report that suggests that millions of older people are putting off difficult conversations about ageing until times of crisis or not having them at all.
Research carried out by ComRes for Independent Age suggests that almost two thirds of those aged 65 and over (around 7 million people) have never had a conversation with their family about key issues including preferences for end of life care, where they would like to live if they can no longer live at home, and who will care for them. And more than a quarter of those aged 65 or over said they are not planning to discuss these issues in the future.
The charity has 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.
The charity say it is only getting more important for families to have these conversations. Cuts to social care budgets and a rapidly ageing population mean fewer people are receiving care from local councils, and older people are increasingly reliant on informal care from family members or left facing huge care bills.
It is estimated that the number of older people living with a disability will rise from 2.9 million to 4.8 million between 2015 and 2035. Over the same time period, the number of disabled older people receiving informal care is projected to increase from 2.2 million to 3.5 million. According to figures from ADASS, local councils provided 400,000 fewer people with social care services in 2013/14 than in 2009/10.
But Independent Age also says that families should not just be left alone to deal with these difficult and often complex issues. A range of key agencies – from information and advice providers, to local authorities and to the NHS – must improve the accessibility of information on care, to help people have meaningful, informed conversations.
And Independent Age says the Government needs to rebuild confidence in the future of the health and care system. Whether it is reports about 15 minute care visits, neglect at care homes or a struggling NHS, public perception of health and care in later life can be poor. To make decisions about their future care options, people first need to have faith in the care and support that is available.
Read the full report on the Independent Age website.