Let’s Talk: Facing Difficult Scenarios with Our Parents

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Disclosure: Information for this post is sourced from Genworth Financial. All opinions are 100% my own.

Let’s Talk: Facing Difficult Scenarios with Our Parents

If you remember when you were a teenager, our parent(s) always seemed to have something to talk to us about. This always seemed to lead to talk about grades, drinking/drug use, or worse yet ‘the talk’. If you were skirting the issues it was probably because it made you feel uncomfortable. I mean, who wants to talk to their parents about those topics?  Well now that you are an adult; the tables have somewhat turned.  As hard as it is now , it’s your responsibility to have the uncomfortable talk with your parents about their future. What are their plans? What are your expectations? What are their expectations? Since it is not a comfortable topic for either of you; here are some tips to help both of you get through this, with the help of Genworth Financial.

How to Break the Ice to Start “The Talk”

As we know, the first step is the hardest. Many adult children assume they will be that ‘go-to’ person, when in fact their parent(s) might have other ideas in mind.  You have to realize you may  not get very far in this first conversation. It may actually take many conversations to get things all figured out.  How you enter this new area of your life, (their life) will depend on you, the personality of the person you are talking with, the type of  relationship you have with that person, and your actual  situation.

  • Be Open – If you have an open relationship, you won’t have to skirt the issue. You will just need to come out and let  them know  that you’d like to talk about these issues. Also ask if  this would be a good time for you to start talking about them.  Everyone worries in the middle of the night what the future holds. Everyone thinks about these things, some more than others.
  • Be Reflective – Take time when you’re together to ask them about their childhood, ask them about their past,  and their parents. Take time to learn about them and be genuine. Not just a means to an end. Then its time to move on to the future.  What worries them? What do they expect out of the future years of their lives? What is their outlook on their upcoming future years?
  • Use someone else’s situation to enter into Theirs – Most likely your parents or yourself know someone who is already dealing with some aspect of aging or long term care. Discussing the things that are good or bad about their situation can really be a  helpful starting  point.
  • Use Helpful  Articles or Websites – Give them a magazine article, or link (if they use the computer) to information about planning ahead, family conversations, long term care costs, and then move on from there.
  • Ask for their Advice – One way to get the ball rolling is to tell them that you are starting a retirement account and ask then for their advice. Then ask when  they started planning  ahead and if they feel fully prepared.
  • Take advantage of an Opening – Say for instance, your father is talking about Uncle Eddie, who’s in a nursing home, and sighs and says, “I don’t see how he can stand it,” have him explain what he means by that. What would your father want if he was in that situation? If you don’t get the chance, bring it up another time. “Hey Dad, remember when you said you wouldn’t be able to stand to live like Uncle Eddie….”
  • Write it Out – If it just seems the whole thing is too overwhelming, write an e-mail or letter outlining your apprehensions and what you want to discuss. This can be very helpful if you live far away and only have a weekend to have these talks. This will get them prepared to discuss the topic once you get together.
  • Seek out a Sibling or Relative – Maybe you have a sibling or close relative who is more at ease talking with your parents. Maybe your parents are more comfortable talking to someone else in the family about their finances or health. Don’t feel offended. You just want someone who will be able to relate and talk to your parents.

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A Few Topics to Cover

  • How Things Are Now-Is the person you care about already facing challenges that you may not be aware of? Do you have a clear and realistic view of their current daily lives? Do they have any health problems? Are there things that can be done now to make life easier?
  • Legal Issues – Its very important for every person to have-no matter what their age:
    • A will that is up-to-date.
    • A practical power of attorney (giving someone the authority to make financial and legal decisions on their behalf)
    • A living will (outlining wishes for end-of-life care), and a power of attorney for health care (which is geared specifically toward medical decisions)
  • There is no Place like Home– When Judy Garland echo’d these same words in The Wizard of OZ, she really hit the nail on the head.  Most people would like to be able to stay in their own home. Will there be someone to help care for them? Will they need assistance with something like life-alert? What is most important to them,and can it work out to happen for them?
  • The Cost of Care – Believe it or not long-term care (at home, in an assisted-living facility or nursing home) can easily run from $50,000 to more than $100,000 a year,  this will deplete your hard-earned savings. Other options to consider are long term care insurance and family and retirement planning and protection.
  • The Medical Puzzle – You will want to make  sure there is one doctor who oversees and coordinates all care, especially as your loved one grows older. As care becomes more involved, multiple doctors may prescribe conflicting treatments. Make sure you  know your parent’s physician and stay in touch. Know what health insurance policies are in place and how to access them.
  • Life’s End Scene – It is such a hard time in one’s life, that many people end up confused and scared, largely because family members were not prepared to make those tough choices. To avoid this it is so important to talk in advance, both specifically and in some depth, about your parent(s)  fears and hopes, and how they want decisions handled. But then be prepared to  brace yourself to follow their wishes, putting your own wants or desires aside.

Don’t Wait Til It’s Too Late

We all know this will never be an easy discussion, but one well worth it. Our parents took care of us when we were children, teenagers and even some into our adulthood when we needed a helping hand. Take the time to talk to them, and listen to their concerns or wants. Then do the right thing and help them set up their plan. Its better to have ‘the talk’ sooner than later; as you don’t want to be left at the end wishing you had.

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