Adult children should approach sensitive subjects sooner rather than
later, says North American research study on family communications
TORONTO, Jan. 15 /CNW/ - A North American research study by the senior
care company Home Instead Senior Care(R) says the quality of communications
between adult children and their senior parents leaves a lot to be desired.
The findings of the study led researchers to coin the phrase 'the 40/70 rule.'
"This means that if you are 40, or your parents are 70, it's time to
start talking about sensitive topics," says James Cooke of Home Instead Senior
Care. "Waiting until the senior parent is 80 or older, when there is
increasing likelihood of more severe health issues, can often lead to
According to the study:
- Communications between adult children and their senior parents can be
- Adult children have the most difficulty talking to their senior
parents about independence issues
- Independence issues include leaving their home for a retirement
residence, assisted-living facility, or nursing home, as well as
financial matters and driving issues
- The quality of communications is influenced by the gender of
respective parties, topic of conversation, and how far the child lives
from the parent
- Adult children should begin conversations on delicate topics with
their senior parents sooner rather than later.
In the study, respondents said the easiest things to discuss with their
senior parents included end-of-life wishes, health issues, their living will,
and how they will be remembered. The most difficult things to discuss included
independence issues, their personal hygiene, financial concerns, and when it's
time to quit working.
Home Instead Senior Care, which is the world's largest home care service
for seniors, has 20 locations in Canada. The company commissioned Albers
Communications Group to develop a 15-minute telephone survey of Baby Boomers
aged 45 to 64 who have at least one parent living over the age of 65.
The purpose of the study was to explore attitudes and opinions of adult
children regarding communications with their senior parents, learn more about
the dynamics of these conversations, identify obstacles to effective
communication and solutions, and explore practical ways for adult children to
communicate with their senior parents on sensitive topics.
In late 2006, the firm interviewed 500 Baby Boomers in Canada and 1,000
Baby Boomers in the U.S. The firm used random telephone sampling methodology.
For the Canadian sample, the margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage
points for results based on the total sample at a 95 percent confidence level.
The margin of sampling error was larger for smaller subgroups.
"Adult children, struggling with an evolving parental relationship, need
to learn to communicate with their aging parents," says Colette Cameron, who
is a member of the faculty of Laurentian University's Gerontology Program, and
Administrator of the North Simcoe Family Health Team in Midland, Ontario.
"Effective, open dialogue between both parties will go a long way in
preventing the development of assumptions and misconceptions about seniors,
and about their present capabilities and future plans."
Ms. Cameron, who has done extensive research involving seniors 75 years
and older, has a Master of Social Work Degree with a collaborative certificate
in Aging and the Life Course from the University of Toronto. She also has an
Honours BA in Gerontology from Laurentian University, a Diploma of Nursing
from Georgian College, and a Diploma of Broadcast Journalism from Fanshawe
College. She is a member of the College of Nurses of Ontario, and the Ontario
College of Social Workers.
In the Canadian portion of the study, the leading roadblocks to
communication between adult children and their senior parents were:
- the senior parent refusing to talk
- the adult child feeling unprepared
- fear on the part of the adult child
- the continuation of the parent-child role
- physical issues
Among Canadian study respondents, 22 percent said their parents were too
independent, which often makes it difficult to address sensitive issues. The
figure in the U.S. was 35 percent. When it came to the percentage of
respondents who said they have talked with their senior parents about care
services that would allow them to remain at home, figures in Canada and the
U.S. were similar -- 52 percent in Canada and 47 percent in the U.S.
But there was a significant difference between the two countries in terms
of being able to communicate effectively with senior mothers versus senior
fathers. For Canadian respondents, 32 percent said it was easier to
communicate with their senior mother, only 9 percent said their senior father.
For U.S. respondents, the figures regarding gender were more extreme:
47 percent said it was easier to communicate with their senior mother, only
8 percent said their senior father.
Concerning senior parents being "open and honest about their concerns and
needs," there was also a notable difference between Canadian and U.S. results.
For Canadian respondents who had both parents living, some 66 percent said
their parents were open and honest about their concerns and needs, whereas the
U.S. figure was 48 percent. But these figures drop when only one parent is
living. For the Canadian respondents with only the senior mother living,
50 percent said their mother was open and honest with them, and for those with
only the father living the figure was 39 percent.
According to the survey, in the U.S. some elements of family
communications may deteriorate when senior parents live with their Boomer-age
children. In Canada, however, adult children who lived with their parents were
the most comfortable of all Boomers when it came to discussing such topics as
their parents' finances, health, and medical benefits.
For more information on the survey, visit www.4070talk.com. For help in
starting the conversation in your family, a booklet called 'A Guide to
Conversation Starters for Boomers and Their Senior Loved Ones' is available
from local Home Instead Senior Care offices across Canada. Home Instead Senior
Care will be conducting a public awareness campaign on the 40/70 Rule
About Home Instead Senior Care
In Canada, Home Instead Senior Care has 20 independently owned locations
in five provinces. There are 11 in Ontario - eight in the Greater Toronto
Area, as well as in Ottawa, Peterborough and Waterloo. Five are in B. C. -
Burnaby, Kelowna, Port Coquitlam, Victoria and White Rock. There are also
locations in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Halifax and Charlottetown. Services include
companionship, meal preparation, medication reminders, light housekeeping, and
escorts for errands and shopping. Home Instead Senior Care services are
available at home or in care facilities from a few hours per week up to 24
hours a day, seven days a week.
Home Instead Senior Care prepares its caregivers to look for signs of
abuse in the elderly and provides caregiver training that is unmatched in the
industry. Recently, Home Instead Senior Care received the Best Employer Award
for 50-Plus Canadians from The Workplace Institute. Home Instead Senior Care
also offers an Alzheimer's training program to its caregivers; this training
program is the first of its kind for non-medical caregivers.
Home Instead Senior Care is the world's largest provider of non-medical
home care and companionship services for seniors with more than 700
independently-owned-and-operated franchises in Canada, the U.S., Japan,
Portugal, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the U. K., Spain, and Taiwan. For
more information about the company visit www.homeinstead.com.
For further information:
For further information: on the 40/70 Survey or to arrange an interview,
please contact: Mary Ann Freedman, Freedman & Associates, Tel: (416) 868-1500,