SOLLA News and Views

06 August 2020

Views: Five things to think about when talking with an older person about later life planning

It’s good to talk (but sometimes it can be difficult too)

Four-fifths of us think planning ahead for the future is important. But almost half (43%) haven’t done it, according to new research from SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly)1.

 Talking about money can be tricky at the best of times, and talking to an older loved one about financial planning for later life can sometimes feel impossible. But we know from experience how vital it is, to ensure they get the most out of their finances – as well as avoiding unexpected costs and stressful crisis situations.

Amanda Waring croppedActress Amanda Waring is a renowned campaigner for the rights of older people and an expert in communicating with compassion. We work closely with her and recently asked for her advice on how to talk to an older person about later life planning.

1. Start the conversation in writing

Sometimes getting started is the most difficult part of a conversation, so to break the ice why not try a written note, voice message or short video? These forms of indirect communication can reduce the pressure on your part, while allowing the other person to digest your words in their own time.

2. Make sure you’re being clear

Talking about later life financial matters is rarely simple, and things can get even more complicated if a person is stressed or suffering from an illness that affects cognitive processing. To check you’re explaining things clearly, ask: “am I making myself clear?” and “is there anything I can explain better?” But avoid questions like: “do you understand?” Which can inadvertently make a person feel like it’s their fault for not understanding.

3. Don’t be afraid of emotions

When talking about a difficult topic, it’s important to allow a person to show their emotions. A simple message like: “I can see and feel how upset you are, I’m here for support – take all the time you need” can reassure someone and allow them to experience an emotion without feeling judged or rushed.

4. Listen, feel and see

Compassionate communication means opening your ears, eyes and heart. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying and look out for visual clues that they’re comfortable with the conversation. Empathy is key too, so put yourself in their shoes and try to think what emotions you’d be experiencing in the same situation.

5. Work together, take your time

When talking about things like care homes and wills, to an older person it can feel like they’re having their control or choice taken away. Keep your loved one involved throughout the process to make it clear to them that you’re working together as a team for a positive outcome. Start out with the expectation that this process may take some time, and for the same reason, start sooner rather than later. That way the pressure is off.

Amanda wearing book cover 2Amanda Waring’s new book Being A Good Carer: An Invaluable Guide to Looking After Others – And Yourself provides practical tips on how to deliver compassionate and dignified care to older people.

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1 Data from survey conducted by Opinium in June 2020 on behalf of SFE.