Having “The Talk” With Aging Parents

Many of us were taught not to talk about politics or religion at the dinner table.  But as adults, children often find it even more taboo to discuss important issues such as money, death and retirement plans with their parents.

The aging parent may avoid these topics for fear of losing control over their own finances and decision-making.  Older children and parents tend to steer clear of these topics that may stir up conflict.

“I won’t think about that today, I’ll think about that tomorrow,” may have worked for Scarlett O’Hara but it makes life very difficult for families left to figure out finances and care for parents without prior planning.

Assessing finances and planning for the future are necessary and will make an unexpected emergency much less stressful.  Knowing your parents’ wishes with regards to medical treatment and where to find financial information will lighten a care-giver’s load.   Frank but gentle conversations regarding retirement savings, power of attorney, care choices and end of life planning will pave the way for much smoother transitions.  

Change can be difficult for any age but seniors can dread talking about the future and facing their own mortality.  Once, however the discussion has begun on the right foot, the fear may dissipate and be replaced by a sense of calm and direction.

Tips for how to broach the subject of financial and medical planning:

1. Choose a time when stress will be low.
Timing really is everything, start the planning process when it can be given proper attention.

2. Ease into the subject.  This won’t be all settled in a single day.

3. Let parents know their care is important to the family.  

4. Demonstrate respect for the wishes of the parents.

5. Encourage financial planning and equity to avoid conflict.

To help you get started, you can download The Care-Years Planner, developed by Patty Randall, author of Let’s Talk – The Care Years…Taking Care of Our Parents/Planning for Ourselves.  The planner is available free of cost at www.longtermcarecanada.com .  Randall has also developed an educational and motivational DVD, Aging with Passion and Purpose…and Care-Years Planning.  

Above all, don’t let fear guide you.  It will be the lucky ones who plan ahead.