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Why is it so hard to talk about care?

Our research reveals that many people find it difficult to talk about care choices, which could result in rushed decisions

Many people are at risk of making rushed decisions about the later life care needs of their loved ones or themselves, according to new Which? research.

In a recent survey, 64% of people told us that they’d find it difficult to talk to a loved one about moving into a care home. Meanwhile, fewer people said they’d find it difficult to talk about needing more care at home, but it’s still a tricky conversation for four in 10 (41%).1

Our findings suggest that many people have care conversations at the point of need, rather than in advance.

While inherently difficult, talking about care preferences in later life is incredibly important. Ultimately, it helps ensure that care receivers, their families and caregivers are better placed to make the right decisions in distressing times.

Talking about care options – Which? Later Life Care helps you hold productive conversations during times of stress.

When to start talking about care choices

It’s never too early to have conversations about the care needs of a loved one. Realistically, though, many of us won’t until there are at least tell-tale signs that it’s needed.

You’ll likely know your family member or friend  well enough to spot changes in behaviour, but here are a few things to look out for:

  • They’re struggling more and more with everyday tasks.
  • You’re concerned that they could have dementia.
  • You have concerns over their ability to drive safely.

How to start difficult conversations about care

If you’re planning to approach a loved one about their care needs, it’s worth doing a bit of thinking beforehand.

Consider the right time and place to have the conversation and whether anyone else should be there.

It’s also worth thinking about what you’re going to say in advance, and preparing to talk about finances and specific options, such as care homes vs home care.

Alex Hayman, Which? Managing Director of Public Markets, reflects on the importance of these conversations in light of our new research: ‘Discussing care needs with a loved one can feel daunting, but it’s important to talk about if you have concerns about their well-being, before the situation becomes critical. With a bit of preparation, these conversations can go a long way to help with making the right decisions for everyone involved.

Which? Later Life Care has a wealth of advice for those looking to start the conversation about future care needs with a loved one, to help them make an informed choice about such a pivotal point in their lives.’

The benefits of having these conversations: John’s story

When John* found out that his wife of 53 years had developed dementia and needed to go into care, it was a hard pill to swallow. However, the transition to a different way of life was made much easier by the fact that they’d already talked about care choices:

The conversation about our future together was something that we had discussed with each other earlier in our marriage, and now looking back, I don’t have any regrets about talking to my wife when I did.

‘One thing which I have learnt through this experience is that those who do not plan ahead for their loved ones will run into difficulty so, in my view, it’s important to talk and plan well ahead of time – especially if it looks as though care may be needed later.’

*We’ve changed John’s name, for purposes of anonymity.

How to start researching different care choices

Care home? Nursing home? Home care? There are so many different options when it comes to care choices that it can be tricky to know where to start.

In fact, less than half (45%) of people know where to look for information about arranging care, according to another Which? survey.2

If you’re looking into care options either for yourself or a loved one, look no further than the care services directory on Which? Later Life Care. Here, you can find relevant care services in your local area, alongside straightforward advice on the different types of care and how to choose a suitable provider.

Unsure about whether you’ll be able to afford care? Use our cost of care and eligibility in England tool to find out about fees and funding options.

For Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, see our care home fees article.

Which? surveyed 2,095 UK adults online 16-17 May 2018. Data was weighted to be demographically representative of the UK population.

Which? surveyed 2,104 UK adults online 11-12 June 2018. Data was weighted to be demographically representative of the UK population.

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