Having the Talk with Mom and Dad
Discussing the future with aging parents—from their general financial health to sensitive issues like end-of-life care—can be frustrating and awkward at times. But not having the conversation could be worse; putting it off could mean having it during a crisis, when we don’t usually do our best thinking.
Planning now for what’s to come can save a family years of heartache down the road, says Lisa Holland, be.group’s regional director of quality improvement. “Most people would agree that we’re better off when things are planned appropriately in advance, but that’s frequently not the case,” says Holland.
There are several issues that can prevent a family from doing this kind of planning, according to Holland. One of the biggest barriers comes down to basic family dynamics. This ranges from Mom and Dad not trusting that you have their best interests at heart to them not wanting to rely on your help.
Holland has these suggestions for how to start the conversation and help parents to make plans for the future:
Listen—Make sure you hear what it is they want before you determine what they need. Understand what their concerns are and what they hope for when they look at the future.
Work as a Team—Once you’ve heard their desires and concerns, let your parents know that you want to work with them to make sure their wishes are met, not yours.
Make the Conversation About You—A good way to start the discussion is by sharing what’s going on with you. For example, tell them you’ve been looking into estate planning for yourself and just put together your own durable power of attorney. Then you can ask, “Have you done this?”
Use Real-Life Examples—Another good “door opener” is bringing up a situation that involves changes in living conditions or health status of someone your parents know. You also might share any stories you’ve seen recently in the news.
Don’t Start With Your Plan—Adult children who come into the conversation with a plan of action before discussing the issue with parents are starting off down the wrong path, one more likely to meet resistance.
They’re in Control—Let your parents know that they have control over their future. That’s especially important if keeping things private is a concern.
Take the Next Step—After the ice is broken and you’ve had the initial conversation, it may be time for a more formal family meeting. This is especially important if other siblings or relatives are involved.