One in six over-65s have hidden serious injury, illness or accident

07 November 2013

One-in-six over-65s have hidden a serious injury, illness or accident from a close friend or family memberĀ in the past five years, Centra has warned.

  • One in six older people hide problems from the people closest to them 
  • Care and support provider Centra launches new guide to help families 
  • TV presenter Ruth Langsford calls for families to talk to relatives.
Care and support provider Centra, formerly Invicta Telecare, is calling for families to make sure relatives at risk of covering up problems and putting their health in danger get the support they need. Its survey of 2,000 adults aged 65 to 93* found many have hidden problems friends or family over fears they will lose their independence or be seen as burden.

Of these, 12% said they thought they would be seen as incapable of looking after themselves. Half (50%) wanted to avoid friends or family over-reacting and more than two thirds (67%) didn't want to worry them. 11% said they were scared about having to go into hospital.

The research found more than one in five (21%) over-65s fear being seen as a burden to friends or family as they grow older. Off the back of the findings, Centra has launched a free guide for people who want to approach relatives and friends about their care needs.

Wendy Darling, Managing Director of Centra Pulse which is the UK’s largest independent provider of telecare, said: "We need to do more to support older people at risk of covering up potentially serious problems. There is a stigma that sometimes comes with growing older and it’s clear this can stop people from facing up to the help they could get. Many older people say they find it difficult to be thought of as a burden or incapable by others when they start to suffer problems at home so find it difficult to open up to those closest to them.

"Too many families will only start talking about care after some sort of crisis has already happened. It shouldn't be treated as a last resort. That's why we're calling on families to talk more openly and honestly about potential problems and the help out there. People don't know enough about how the right kind of care and technology, like a personal alarm, can give control of someone’s freedom and wellbeing."

While 40% of over-65s Centra surveyed said they worry life may get more difficult as they age, two thirds (65%) haven't seriously thought about the type of care they would prefer in the past five years. Less than one in three (28%) have had a conversation about what they would want to happen if they couldn't look after themselves.

But nearly two thirds (62%) said their child would be someone they would turn to if they needed to talk about their care needs. More said they would turn to their son or daughter than go to their partner (59%), doctor (53%) or a friend (18%).

More than 100,000 people currently live independently at home thanks to Centra Pulse's range of personal alarms, wireless sensors and detectors, known as telecare.

This Morning presenter Ruth Langsford has backed the campaign by helping to launch Centra Pulse's free guide for people who want to approach relatives and friends about their care needs. She hopes it will encourage families like her own to begin new conversations about how care and support in the home could stop relatives having to suffer in silence.

Ruth Langsford said: "I've come up against some serious barriers when it comes to talking with my own parents about their wellbeing as they got older. My mum is a fiercely independent 83-year-old but she lives alone now. We constantly worry that she is covering up problems and concerns so that we don’t see her as a burden.

"It became clear that mum found it difficult to ask for help when my father developed Alzheimer’s disease. There was nothing we could do or say to get her to admit she might need some more support. She once admitted to sitting with him all night when he had a fall until they could get help from a neighbour in the morning, because she didn’t want worry her own family.

"It's important to make sure your parents get the right support as they grow older. But it’s very hard to know when to bring up the subject and it can lead to some difficult conversations. The situation can become even more upsetting if you live further away or are busy at work or caring for children or grandchildren. I understand now how important it is to get right type of support, advice and information so that you are fully prepared to face up to any potential problems as a family".

Thanks in part to role models like the Queen and Dame Judi Dench, further research found 83% of the over-65s surveyed believe older people can still make a huge difference to this country. Only 6% think of themselves as "old” and said this has an impact on how they live their life. 76% backed the 87-year-old reigning monarch and 70% championed 78-year-old Bond girl Dench for setting a positive example for older people.

But 62% think older people are still more likely to be seen as a problem by society. Around one third (34%) even class the term ‘old’ as a negative or offensive term and more than a quarter said the same for the words 'elderly' (27%) and 'OAP' (30%).

Over-65s now total a sixth of the population and their numbers are set to nearly double from ten to 19 million within the next four decades. By 2050 one-in-four of the population will be aged 65 and over**.

For more information and download Centra Pulse's steps to talking to your parents about their future.

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,003 British adults aged 65 and over. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th July 2013 - 23rd July 2013.  The survey was carried out online.
** - key issues of the ageing population (PDF).