Independent research by the Home Instead Senior Care network of seniors, adult children, senior care and legal professionals provides new insights into the dynamics of the conversations that do and do not take place between Baby Boomers and their aging parents. A new survey finds approximately 80 million Americans currently avoiding the sort of end-of-life discussions with aging parents that can save families years of heartache, intra-family bickering or even tied-up assets and legal issues.
Nevertheless, millions currently steer clear of the topic according to the Marist survey conducted for Home Instead, Inc. Senior care professionals surveyed estimate that less than one-third of families (31%) have had adequate conversations about aging and end-of-life issues. The top two excuses cited as reasons for avoiding these conversations are discomfort and procrastination. Nevertheless, many survey respondents also indicated apprehension that their families could experience future problems due to lack of communication about topics such as finances and health, and based on the survey results, Home Instead, Inc. gathered experts to propose strategies that can help make this potentially difficult conversation easier for families. The results of this initiative have been released as the “40-70 Rule” program, including An Action Plan for Successful Aging.
Home Instead recommends that given the potentially severe consequences of waiting too long to have these critical conversations, that persons whose parents are approaching 70 and themselves approaching 40 should have “the talk” about critical aging issues — hence the “40-70 Rule.” The Home Instead Senior Care network is committed to raising awareness of this prime talking time and taking the conversation further by encouraging individuals and families to document their wishes. Resources, including videos, conversation starters and aging plans, are now available at 4070Talk.com, a program launched in 2008 to start important conversations early and to help jump-start that dialogue before a crisis occurs.
“Too often, conversations about end-of-life plans are taking place in a hospital, after a health emergency has occurred. We’re hoping to change that,” says Molly Carpenter, Caregiver Advocate at Home Instead, Inc. “The ’40-70 Rule’ resources from the Home Instead Senior Care network are free and provide the nudge many families need to start the conversation in an open, non-threatening environment.”
Home Instead notes that many senior care experts suggest having “the conversation” around critical end-of-life issues when parents are near 60 and children are 30, but observes that unfortunately, research indicates 70 percent of such conversations happen too late, initiated by an event such as a health crisis or other emergency, circumstances that can increase likelihood of family disputes, and that according to surveyed attorneys, two-thirds of these disputes that end up in court could’ve been avoided had end-of-life wishes been communicated and documented in advance.
Previous research conducted by Home Instead, Inc. found nearly one-third (31 percent) of Baby Boomers said their biggest communication obstacle with aging parents is the continuation of the parent-child roles that emerged in childhood, making discussion of sensitive issues even more difficult. In fact, finances, living preferences and driving are the three least talked about topics between surveyed adult children and their aging parents.
“Quite often, when it comes to certain topics, there is a noticeable gap between the wishes of the senior parents and their children,” says Ms. Carpenter. “This is another reason why it’s important to establish plans in advance so that a parent’s expressed wishes are met.”
The “Gauging Americans’ Overall Life Satisfaction” survey by Marist Poll polled responses from 1,224 adults 18 and older. Home Instead, Inc. also completed 645 surveys with senior care professionals and 100 interviews with estate planning lawyers in North America, as well as 600 telephone interviews in the U.S. with seniors age 65 and older, and 600 telephone interviews with adult children who have parents age 65 and older. A full research executive summary is available at 4070Talk.com.
Americans can download the full “40-70” Rule; Executive Summary, U.S. Survey Results (PDF 223K) at:
Canadians can download the full “40-70” Rules; Executive Summary, Canadian Survey Results (PDF 223K) at:
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