Many families take this time of the year to address ‘the elephant in the room’. After visiting with mom and dad many adult children decide it is time for family meeting to handle the health and safety concerns. Their parents physical or cognitive failings are a source of stress and concern.
If you’re a baby boomer, you may already have had ‘the talk’ with your growing children. But have you had ‘the talk’ with your aging parents as well?
The talk involves a frank discussion with parents about financial and health care arrangements for the end of life. The discussion should include where the parents want to live, how they want to be cared for, how they want their money managed, and what kinds of burial or funeral arrangements they would prefer.
Seniors and their families often ask our law firm how they can get mom and dad to talk about their long-term care, finances and final arrangements. These and other delicate aging issues often go unaddressed because of an individual’s discomfort with these issues. We are also often asked when these discussions should occur.
There are a few benchmarks that our firm uses to initiate discussion on difficult aging subjects.
If the adult child is over 40 and the parent is over 70 it is time to have ‘the talk’. We call this the 40-70 rule. Aging is inevitable and by this age ‘the talk’ is necessary.
Let’s face it, talking to our loved ones about aging, money, and death are not the easiest topics in the world. The hard part about talking with aging parents is that they’re used to being in charge, instead of getting advice from their children. Probably the most important aspect of having ‘the talk’ is to at least start a dialogue and break the ice. A study by AARP found two thirds of adult children never have a discussion with their parents about long term care and end of life arrangements.
How can you approach your parents about these issues? First, you should get your own house in order: make sure that you have executed your own will, durable power of attorney, and advanced medical directive. Use your own planning, a friend’s or relative’s illness or death as an opportunity to start a discussion.
Starting a communication can often help avoid a health care financial and end of life crisis. At the very least an open and frank discussion can prepare the senior and their family for a crisis.
One third of adults have a major communication obstacle with their aging parents that stems from the continuation of the parent child role. How can an independent trained professional assist with ‘the talk’? Often when a senior hears information from a professional, non-family, it resonates more than when the information is coming from a family member.
When ‘the talk’ begins in an elder law attorney’s office, it is easier for all to speak on issues, such as finances, health and end-of-life.