There's no way around it: It's difficult to talk to our aging parents about money. Beside the fact that finances are difficult to discuss anyway, when we attempt to speak to our senior parents, we don't want to come across as overbearing or greedy. Plus, parents may not want to admit that they need help taking care of their finances. But it's a conversation that needs to be had.
Adult children pay an average of $10,000 out of pocket for their parent's nursing home care. That can cause a heavy financial burden for families. Having the discussion about finances can help relieve some of that burden before it's ever a reality.
To help you talk to your aging parents about money, we've outlined the following tips.
1. Be Respectful, Yet Firm
Parents, especially those in their senior years with well-grown children, aren't used to being told what to do by their children. Think about it: they've spent their whole lives guiding their kids, not the other way around. If, however, a firm, yet respectful method of discussion is used, aging parents will see that it's for the best.
One way to do just that is to be specific about your concerns. If you dad has recently been taken advantage of financially, express that. Being vague can lead to confusion. However, you should also express your concerns with love. In this manner, you can sensitively address the resources and responsibilities that you need to know about.
2. Plan Ahead
Starting to plant the seed by mentioning a possible financial discussion well before you intend to actually sit down and have one will ease all of the participants in to the eventual meeting. This will give you time to determine what you already know and what you need to know, and also get any siblings on board and prepared to help you with the discussion. It will also add reinforcement through multiple, yet trusted, opinions, and it won't appear that you're "pouncing" on your parents all at once.
Often, the discussion about money will evolve and wont' be a one-time event. Think about this conversation more as a journey. It will require your time, love, and patience.
3. Don't Wait for a Catastrophe
Among the earliest signs of dementia are problems with finances, and if the wait becomes too long, it could turn out to be too late. An article in the New York Times mentioned siblings who tried to talk to their mother over several occasions, but she kept steering the discussion into a different direction. Tragically, their mother died after falling down the stairs of her home, and since the family never had the money conversation, they were unaware that their mother's mortgage was already in default.
In a crisis, emotions run high and time is often short. To avoid putting your family in a situation in which they need to make a quick decision in that type of environment, have the conversation before a catastrophe happens.
4. Use Other Experiences as Examples
Research some positives and negatives and have them ready to present during your talk. A story like the one above could show your parents how urgent it is to line up their financial situation, while a positive story about folks who did accomplish the discussion will encourage them, as well. When there is a tangible and real story, it makes their situation real, also.
5. Take Time to Process Emotions
Talking to your parent can be a very emotional conversation for both of you. You may experience high stress, but it's important to identify your feelings and process them before talking. Reflecting on your own feelings can help you alleviate any fear, anger, of frustration you may be feeling and help you maintain a calm tone in your dialogue.
6. Focus on Independence
One of your aging parent's biggest fears is most likely that they are giving up some of their independence. However, you can focus on maintaining independence in the conversation to help ease this fear.
For example, "Mom, I want you to be independent at home as long as possible. What do we need to do to ensure that you can remain safe here?"
If you're still unsure about how to go about having financial discussions with your elderly parents, or if you're in need of anything else regarding the care of seniors, please contact your local Caring Senior Service today.