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Talking to your aging parents about the future

Are you uncomfortable talking to your parents about money, estate planning or death? Recently, this blog discussed how to talk to your adult children about your own death and their potential inheritances. Now it’s time to switch it around to having “the talk” with your aging parents.

It’s not easy. Here’s how one woman’s conversation went:

“Me to Dad: So, Dad, I’m writing a blog about preparing for end-of-life decisions and it occurred to me that we haven’t really talked about what you and mom want.

“Dad: You think we’re DYING!?

“(End of conversation)”

Unfortunately, tough conversations are often necessary. You may need to know if your family can afford to put a parent into an assisted living facility, what they want done with their personal possessions should they need to downsize, or who they want making health-care decisions when they are no longer able to do so.

Your parents may be uncomfortable talking about the inevitable future for a number of reasons:

  • Talking about money and death is culturally taboo.
  • It forces them to face their mortality because they are talking about things that will occur after their deaths.
  • They fear losing control over their finances after scrapping all their lives to accumulate it.
  • Maybe they are embarrassed about how they’ve mishandled their money.

Preparing for the difficult conversation

It may be embarrassing for you as well to ask personal questions about their finances, health issues and estate plans. When you prepare to talk with mom and dad, put your thoughts together and think about how you can broach the topic without stepping on their toes. It may help to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who else do you want to include in this conversation — one of your siblings or a younger sibling of a parent?
  • Would it help to ask others for advice — a pastor, social worker friend or legal advisor?
  • What questions can you ask that will focus on your parents’ needs, not your own, your children’s or your siblings’.

In a following blog, we will discuss conversations starters and where to go if you have questions or need assistance taking the next steps.