a couple sitting down with Older Parents for a family meeting

Approaching Touchy Subjects With Your Aging Parents


By Maddie Santiago


Everyone wants their parents to live a long and happy life. Having your parents around to watch you, your children, and even your grandchildren grow up is wonderful. But prolonged lifetimes can also lead to some difficult issues. What if your aging parents didn’t save enough for retirement? What if they suffer from dementia or other issues and can no longer make financial decisions for themselves? How are you supposed to know if they are in need of help- and how exactly would you go about helping them??

Thinking and worrying about this list of questions can lead to a lot of stress in your life and even tension within your family. Even though it is very important to inquire about these topics with your aging parents, it’s not exactly a conversation that most people look forward to. A survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education found that 7 out of 10 adults say they find this difficult. This topic isn’t particularly fun for the aging parents in question either. Some parents can be stubborn and simply refuse to talk about money. They’ll try to procrastinate about addressing the situation, change the subject when the topic comes us, or tell their adult children that it is none of their business.

Dealing with everyday finances when retired is difficult. The Institute on Assets and Social Policy found that one-third of senior households has no money left-over after each month or is in debt after meeting essential expenses. The major problem with the procrastination of the topic of finances arises when the unexpected happens. When there was no planning, in times of crisis, the adult children have no idea what accounts, insurance policies, legal documents, etc., the parents had in place or where to find and how to access important documents regarding these things.

Dr. Mikol Davis, a clinical psychologist, gerontologist, and co-author if the book, The Family Guide to Aging Parents, recommends ending the procrastination by scheduling a date and time for a talk with your parents. It’s usually a convenient time to schedule this talk for after a holiday or other type of family get together. That way you will all be together with you, your parents, and any other siblings or family members that may share responsibilities of your aging parents in the future. Not to mention, everyone is typically in a good mood after seeing the family, especially your parents since they may get to spend time with their children and grandchildren. Starting off a more difficult conversation when everyone is in a great mood is always a good idea.

One of the main reasons that your parents may be sensitive about this conversation is that they fear that by having it, they are losing their independence. Address this head on by saying that you also want them to maintain their independence for as long as possible. Tell them you want to make sure they accomplish that, but that you can’t do that without information about their situation.

When having the conversation, show your parents the respect they deserve and be understanding as to why they may be sensitive of the topic. Stay away from words like “it’s time”, “You’re getting old”, or “You can’t do this anymore”. You can even turn it around and make the conversation about you, to be sure you don’t offend them. Tell them you are concerned that you wouldn’t have any idea what to do if something happened. Most parents love the opportunity to help their children. By asking THEM for help, it can open the door for them to be more comfortable talking about these things. Then you to learn about their situation, what exactly is going on, and the steps that need to take place in case of emergency.

Talking to your aging parents about their finances, insurance, etc., can be a daunting conversation. However, once you get passed both you and your parent’s fears about approaching the topic, having open communication can help you create a well-planned strategy for you and your parent’s future.

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