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Families ‘taking ostrich approach’ over care of elderly parents

People need to “wake up” to the future care needs of their parents and discuss the issue now, the head of a charity has said.

Gail Scott-Spicer, chief executive of Carers Trust, said people adopted an “ostrich approach” to dealing with the issue of how elderly parents will be cared for.

A poll of more than 1,300 people for the charity found 68% had never discussed care arrangements with their parents, with 48% saying it had never come up in conversation.

More than a third (34%) were embarrassed, thought it would upset their parents, or did not know how to broach the subject.

Even among those aged 55 and over whose parents were still alive, more than 30% had never talked about the issue.

Among 25 to 34-year-olds, 81% had never spoken to their parents about care in later life.

Almost half of all those surveyed said they were not worried about future care for their parents.

More than a quarter (28%) had no idea what arrangements to make, while 35% expected their parents to either go into a residential home or be supported at home.

Some 28% said they would look after their parents themselves by giving up their job, arranging flexible working, or have their parents move in with them.

And when it came to finances, 23% thought their parents had planned how they would pay for their own care, while 12% intended to sell their parents’ house to cover costs.

One in 10 thought the Government would pay for all care for their parents.

Ms Scott-Spicer said: “The research suggests an ‘ostrich approach’ when it comes to later-life care of our loved ones.

“We were shocked that future care needs of parents appear to be such a taboo family topic.

“Given the expected rise in the UK’s elderly population and the fact there are already over 12 million over 65-year-olds in the country, we simply can’t afford to not have these conversations.”

She said three out of five people would be a carer at some point in their lives, often for their parents.

“Anybody can become a carer, literally overnight. Unpaid carers save the UK £119 billion each year but often at a high price for themselves.”

Lisa Harris from Saga Care said: “More often than not, care decisions are made in a moment of crisis which means unnecessary stress for everybody involved.

“In many cases talking about and planning for care needs would help the person needing care to maintain their independence for as long as possible, but could also help ensure family members can make the right decision rather than a rushed one.”

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