Having Difficult Conversations

Last month saw the publication of a new report by the charity Independent Age which summarises research looking at how and why families avoid talking about the challenges they may face in older age. The report is called “We need to talk about caring: dealing with difficult conversations” and can be downloaded from here:


difficult conversations


It draws on an online poll of 2,066 people conducted by ComRes and a series of focus groups and interviews. This work indicates that while four out of five people agree that it’s important to discuss key topics like housing and care in old age, less than a third of British adults have ever had a conversation of this kind with a family member. The picture doesn’t improve as people get older and these issues become more real – almost two thirds of those aged 65 and over have never had aconversation with family members about these key topics. That’s around 7 million older people and their families uncertain about how they’d manage if they needed care and support in older age. Exploring the reasons behind these missed conversations using focus groups, older people and their families told us that:

  • They often lacked knowledge and confidence to begin a conversation and were anxious they might suggest the wrong thing
  • They wanted to avoid thinking about scenarios that might threaten future independence such as needing to leave your home
  • They wanted to protect family members from worry or upset
  • The timing never seemed right and they felt it was better to wait until an event or trigger made the conversation unavoidable
  • Distance and a lack of time together could also act as a barrier

So what can we do to encourage people to sit down and have these difficult conversations. Alongside their research the charity have also launched an online resource for families whowant to talk to older relatives about sensitive issues. It gives some suggestions for how to begin conversations and specific information on five key areas that they  think families should consider talking about. The guide can be found at Difficult Conversations Guide

So now that I have raised the issue; have you had this kind of conversation with your loved ones?  Maybe now is the time. 


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