‘What to do about mum and dad’ - still a taboo subject for many

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Two thirds of adults worry about the future care of their parents, yet most refuse to discuss the topic with them, and even less have made any plans, new research has revealed.      

Despite their concern, 66 per cent of adults have never discussed the issue with their parents as either side may refuse to talk about it, or it simply has not ever come up. In comparison, just five per cent discuss the topic regularly and one in five broach the subject from time to time.    

Worryingly, just seven per cent of respondents said they have made plans for their parents’ future care.                             

The in-depth study of 2,000 people with parents aged over 60, conducted by leading national care provider Care UK, also discovered that just 28% of respondents would have their ageing parents come to live with them if they needed full-time care.

Instead, 32 per cent would refuse to let their parents move in, while another 36 per cent admitted they would have to seriously think about it.

Of those who said they wouldn’t want their ageing parents to move in, half said their home wasn’t big enough and four in ten said they wouldn’t be able to cope.

20 per cent said they lack the necessary skills to deal with them and one in ten said their own health wasn’t up to it.

Financial reasons, having their own children still at home and not having a close relationship with their own parents were other factors adults listed.

With an ageing population and an expected increase in the need for older people’s care services*, Care UK say that this is a subject that needs to be discussed, sooner rather than later.             

Jeni Rushton, Care Manager at Care UK, said: “We understand that the future care of a parent is an emotional topic and can be a difficult subject for many families to approach with their loved one.  Discussing care plans with your parents can be upsetting, especially for the first time, but we encourage families to research and talk about their options so they can make informed decisions together.    

“Support is available but it can often be hard to find. Talk to a financial advisor about your options and seek advice online. We work closely with families to understand their needs and advise on all the options of care available, from respite and at-home support through to nursing and residential care.”        

The research also discovered that sad, guilty, concerned and emotional are just some of the feelings that respondents said they would experience if they had to arrange external care for their parents.

Three quarters of those polled said they felt their parents would wish to stay in their own home, but two thirds said they wouldn’t want to leave them alone in their own home. 

Three quarters also said they would feel awful if their parents wanted to live with them but they couldn’t have them.

In addition, the study found that while 37 per cent of those polled felt that a care home could provide better care for their parents, they felt guilty about arranging external care.    

Jeni adds: “From our experience, the thought of putting parents in a care home can come with great concern.  Often the decision is made at crisis point – when parents need a level of care which families may not be able to provide.  This can lead to a big decision that nobody was prepared for, which only heightens the anguish for parents and their families.    

“This is why we encourage people to discuss the subject of care with their parents before it becomes a necessity.  This gives both parents and families a sense of control and also allows them to explore all the options available.  For example, parents may not need full-time care, but there are day centre options in which parents can spend a few hours and receive vital care and support in a sociable setting.  Having an open and honest discussion about this beforehand – and perhaps trying out the options available - can save a lot of stress and heartache in the future.”  

Interestingly, the survey also found that attitudes towards parental care also seem to change according to age, with 18 to 24 year olds most likely to say that they would look after their parents compared to those who are 55 years old or more who were most likely to say they would not.

Jeni concludes: “I think the idea of looking after your parents is very different from the reality.  This is perhaps why younger people are more open to the idea. 

“As people get older, their own finances, how much space they have and bringing up their children are all factors which can make it harder for them to look after their parents.  Again, this is why we encourage families to talk it through, see what is the best solution for all, and make the most of the help and advice available to them.”         

Reasons for not having ageing parents live with you

  1. Our house isn’t big enough
  2. I couldn’t cope
  3. I don’t have that kind of relationship with my parents
  4. I lack the necessary skills to deal with them
  5. I have too many work commitments
  6. I cherish my independence
  7. It wouldn’t be financially feasible
  8. I have children to look after
  9. My partner wouldn’t agree to it
  10. My health isn’t up to it

Reasons for not discussing future care plans with parents

  1. It’s not something I worry about right now
  2. It’s a depressing topic
  3. I don’t know enough about the care options available
  4. We don’t want to face it
  5. It’s too upsetting for my parents
  6. It’s too upsetting for me
  7. Neither of us can afford to pay for care if and when they need it
  8. If we don’t talk about it, it can’t cause arguments

Read more about our Ageing Parents Survey.

* Source: Care of Elderly People Report 2012/13 by Laing and Buisson

  1. The segment of the UK population aged 85 and over is projected to multiply more than 5 times from 1.5million in 2012 (2.3 per cent of the population) to 7.8 million (8.8 per cent of the population) in the year 2081.
  2. Rates of disability and dependence escalate so rapidly with increasing old age that long term population ageing will have such a large impact on the demand for care services.
  3. While only 0.7 per cent of the 65-74 year old population were living in a care home or long stay hospital setting in 2012, the figure rises to 15.8 per cent for people aged 85 and over.


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