What our parents want in their old age?

Senior woman sitting in cafe with friends

Time to plan for the future?

Planning for our parents’ old age is one of those ‘urgggh, noooo’ jobs we tend to put off until the last possible minute. And it’s not just the horrible thought of our parents descending into old age that stops us from thinking about it; it’s the sheer lack of time, too. What with children to look after, the dog to walk, households to run, and careers to maintain, add an ageing, ill parent into the mix and, hello meltdown. But it is something we need to engage with – because let’s face it, often it’s the offspring who have to drive this stuff. And better to think about it now than when it hits the fan – what do you want for your folks when they can’t look after themselves any more? And, more importantly, what do they want?

Ashridge Homecare’s founder, Trudi Scrivener, with 30 years’ experience within the care industry, offers some advice on how to plan for our parents’ dotage:

Put the kettle on and have the awkward conversation

It’s not the most exciting discussion to have, nor the easiest but, as with many things in life, communication is key. It’s likely that your parents have already made some plans for their future and will have their own vision of what old age will look like. They may have strong views they’ve not shared with you, so talk about what’s important to them – being near family or their friendship circle? Staying in their existing home or downsizing? What about their pets or their garden? And you must all be prepared for plans to change – for example, we recently provided care to a couple who had to return to the UK from their dream retirement home in Portugal, as one of them had a fall and they couldn’t be looked after in their rambling villa full of steps.

If they’re being especially tricky…

I often hear of stubbornly independent elderly parents refusing to engage with the idea that they might need help. If that’s the case, try appealing to their better nature: emphasise how worried you, their dear child, is, and how it’d help you sleep better at night if you came up with a plan together. Say ‘Please, mum, give it a try, just for me’ – that works 99% of the time! Also, be careful about the language you use – don’t use the term ‘carer’ too often, try ‘helper’ or ‘housekeeper’, describing them in terms of someone helping with a few things around the house.

Be honest about your own lifestyle

If you have a busy life, with a young family and/or a demanding job, you might not relish the idea of looking after your parents. That can be a tough thing to admit, but it’s perfectly normal. Think about how much time you honestly have to coordinate and facilitate care – and whether you are willing to do this. Can you/your siblings realistically take on the responsibility of organising GP or hospital appointments every time your parent is ill? Thinking about all this will help you work out which options are best for your family.

The blog ‘Help! What are the available care options?’ goes into greater depth about the next steps.

If you need any advice about care for a relative, we would love to talk to you.  Please get in touch if we can help.