It’s not always easy for adult children and their aging parents to talk about their mutual concerns. Conversations about long-term health care, finances and a possible move to a senior living community can make families uncomfortable, and even cause fear. But not having a clear plan in place ahead of the needs can result in a stress for everyone, and may lead to choices made under duress that prove even more costly. To help aging parents, adult children should consider how to start the conversation.
If you haven’t talked with your parents yet, you’re not alone. A 2016 survey by Care.com found that 54 percent of adult children would rather talk to their own kids about sex than talk to their parents about senior care.
And parents don’t want to talk about it either. A Fidelity Investments survey found 43 percent of parents haven’t had detailed conversations about long-term care with family members – and an additional 23 percent haven’t had any conversations at all.
The Importance of Family Decision-Making
What happens when you and your parents don’t talk about their future? It leaves the door open to confusion over expectations and family roles, puts the burden on the children to make decisions in a time of crisis, and increases the financial risks related to unplanned medical costs.
Family members need to understand their roles. Who will be the executor of the estate? Who will manage finances? And the most important – who will care for Mom and Dad?
The Fidelity survey results illustrate some of the tensions that can come from not discussing these issues. For example, 72 percent of parents expect one of their children to assume the role of long-term caregiver – however, 40 percent of the children identified as the caregiver didn’t know it. In addition, 45 percent of parents and children don’t agree at all on which child, if any, will be the caregiver.
When it comes to where parents will receive care, the Care.com survey reveals additional issues that warrant family discussions. It found that a majority of adult children would consider having an aging parent live at home with them. But they underestimate the costs of in-home care, both in terms of finances and their personal lives.
Talking to Your Parents
So, yes. When it comes to caring for aging parents, get the conversation started before there is a crisis-driven need. Find out what your parents want, what their plans are and what role they need you to play.
How should you start? By asking questions. This free printable worksheet – Tackling the Topic – has questions and conversation tips to make it easier.