“I don’t want to talk about that right now.”

Hannah Everard from Thurrock Council discusses the importance of future planning

Hannah Everard from Thurrock Council

“I don’t want to talk about that right now.” That is what my grandmother would say to me when I would speak to her about a power of attorney or any future planning for that matter. She is blessed (or cursed) to have two granddaughters who work in health and social care, one a social worker and the other an oncology nurse. We see every day the downside when future planning hasn’t been spoken about.  I understand it’s a difficult conversation and not the nicest of topics to discuss with family members.

In my line of work, I often have to have this difficult conversation, “What would you like for your future?” NICE has dementia guidelines that look through the whole process when working with adults with dementia. I have found in my experience that once an initial diagnosis has been made, families often have to navigate, at times, a complicated path to ensure their loved one has the care, treatment and dignity they deserve. Often, I advise people about the process of a power of attorney and the benefits of having it in place and the pitfalls when it is not there, including the cost of going to the Court of Protection. Age UK has an easy read guide.

Professionals need to feel confident enough to have these brave conversations. We need to discuss, with full honesty and empathy, the hurdles the family will face. But also, what tools they can use to make the hurdles more manageable. Families need to be brave enough to speak to their loved ones about what the future will hold and find out what that person wants, so that they are able to have a good quality of life.

The NHS, in line with NICE, has guidance aimed at families that highlights the importance of having those difficult conversations. Whilst this is aimed at those going through end-of-life care, the tools on how to have the conversation on future planning can be used for those with recent diagnoses of degenerative illness or people with a learning disability.

My grandmother finally agreed to a power of attorney, although with any other future planning she still responds, “I don’t want to talk about that!”

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