"The 40-70 Rule" International Caregiving Company Launches Campaign to Get Seniors and Their Families Talking

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Research conducted by Home Instead Senior Care reveals that a communication gap, which may have been a problem in families when children were young, can live on, becoming even more of a challenge as mom and dad age. A new campaign by Home Instead Senior Care is designed to help adult children as well as their senior parents begin to address difficult issues with each other such as driving, finances, independence, end-of-life issues, and even romance.

Home Instead Senior Care's 4070 Guide provides families with research and communication tips to help make conversations about difficult issues easier.

Oftentimes both adult children and their loved ones can benefit from outside help, such as a professional caregiver. But the only way that will happen is if they can talk about it.

An adult daughter rushes to the emergency room where her senior-age mother has suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma. But she has no idea if her mom has a living will or other documents that could help guide the family's decisions. She wishes she'd asked. Elsewhere, a widow is struggling to tell her children she needs help around the house without losing more of her independence. She's looking for the words to say.

These sensitive situations prompted Home Instead Senior Care, a company with more than 800 franchise offices in 12 countries, to launch a public education campaign called the "40-70 Rule." This campaign is designed to help adult children as well as their senior parents begin to address difficult issues with each other such as driving, finances, independence, end-of-life issues, and even romance.

"The '40-70 Rule' means that if you are 40, or your parents are 70, it's time to start the conversation about some of these difficult topics," said Paul Hogan, Co-Founder and CEO of Home Instead Senior Care. "Likewise, there are many topics that seniors themselves should begin discussing with their children when they are 70."

Research conducted by Home Instead Senior Care reveals that a communication gap, which may have been a problem in families when children were young, can live on, becoming even more of a challenge as mom and dad age. "Those topics of independence, dating, money and health don't end when children grow up and, in fact, the roles may reverse," Hogan said. "Now it's Baby Boomer children and their older parents struggling to begin conversations on sensitive issues that are impacting the lives of seniors."

This research, conducted in the U.S. and Canada by Home Instead Senior Care, revealed that nearly one-third of adults in the U.S. have a major communication obstacle with their parents that stems from continuation of the parent-child role.* In other words, it can be difficult to get the conversation going because the child is still in a child rather than adult role with their aging loved one.

"Because of this obstacle, adult children may wait until an emergency or crisis happens before talking to parents," Hogan said. "Our goal with the '40-70 Rule' campaign is to provide practical ways for adult children and their parents to talk now. We've seen lack of communication lead to misuse of medications, self-neglect and accidents. We also know that seniors many times struggle with how to tell their children what's going on in their lives, so this campaign can help them as well."

At the center of the campaign is a guide of conversation starters for sensitive senior-care subjects that can be accessed from the Web site http://www.4070talk.com, which was created as a resource for the campaign. The guide was compiled with the assistance of Jake Harwood, Ph.D., national author and communication professor from the University of Arizona who is the former director of that school's Graduate Program in Gerontology.

The guide features communication tips, advance directives information, and conversation starters for common family scenarios that can help either Boomer children or their senior parents start a conversation. For instance, Boomers can learn how to begin a conversation with their parents about whether the older adults should be driving. And seniors can find out how to let their kids know they just need a little extra help around the house to stay at home.

Good communication is vital to helping families know when it's time to seek additional resources, Hogan said. "Oftentimes both adult children and their loved ones can benefit from outside help, such as a professional caregiver. But the only way that will happen is if they can talk about it."

For more information about Home Instead Senior Care's survey, including the results of the research and an executive summary, log on to http://www.4070talk.com. For more information about aging issues, contact Jake Harwood at jharwood(at)u.arizona.edu. To order his book, "Understanding Communication and Aging," visit http://www.amazon.com.

*Survey Methodology: 1,000 telephone interviews were completed in the U.S. (sampling error of +/-3.1 percent at a 95 percent confidence level) and 500 interviews were completed in Canada, excluding Quebec (sampling error of +/-4.4 percent at a 95 percent confidence level). Data analysis was performed by the Boomer Project of Richmond, Virginia: http://www.boomerproject.com.

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Dan Wieberg
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