Breaking The Barrier Of Silence; Discussing Money With Your Aging Parents

Many of us are in the “Sandwich Generation.” We belong to the wonderful group of families that are still in the process of raising children and we have the added responsibility of caring for elderly parents. Most of the time this is not an issue until the subject of money or health care comes up. Usually when money comes into the conversation it is due to a financial disaster or a health crisis that will force us to delve into our parents’ checkbooks in an attempt to sort situations out.

Do you really want to wait for such a crisis to develop before initiating the conversation of money? Or would you rather wait until your parent is mentally incompetent to discuss financial strategies. Most of us would answer with a big, healthy, “No!” However, starting a conversation about money with a parent can be frustrating at best. Most of the time parents think they are helping by not burdening you with their problems. Frequently, when I approached my folks about money their comments were; “Don’t worry about us. We’re fine, kid.” “We got it all handled, you just worry about your own family.” Stuff like that. It was maddening.

My father only opened up about finances after the death of my mother. It took that traumatic experience for him to realize why I needed to know certain things about his finances and how he wanted his estate to be handled upon his death. I waited for 18 months after my mom’s funeral before I sat down with my dad and asked him what he wanted done. He was resistant at first, but finally understood that I was asking out of respect for him and his wishes. It took another 6 months after that before he sent me copies of his will and a list of people were various items were to go upon his death.

I watched a similar situation occur with my husband and his parents. Both of his parents are still alive, but I watched my husband and his brother spend 3 years every Thanksgiving and Christmas trying to get their parents to create wills and living trusts so that the rest of the family wouldn’t be burdened with choices that really belonged to the parents. I thought, “There has got to be an easier way to handle this!”

Then I read an article in “How to Get Your Parents to Open Up About Their Finances.” The Bottom Line Magazine(March 2007) It was written by Dan Taylor who is an attorney who specializes in elder-care issues. I recommend that you go to his website at http://www.parentcaresolution.com/ and look over the articles and questions that he has set up to assist the sandwich generation talk to parents about issues of health care and money.

He recommends six critical conversations that need to be discussed.

1-The Big Picture Conversation (What do we want for our long-term care?)
2-The Money Conversation (What do we have, where is it, how do we get to it?)
3-The Home Conversation (How much is it worth, How do we use it, How do we leave it?)
4-The Property Conversation (What do we want to keep? What do we want to give?)
5-The Care Conversation (Where do we go, What do we need, who provides it?)
6-The Legacy Conversation (How will we be remembered, who will remember us, and when do we talk about our memories?)

I highly recommend that anyone who has living parents have these discussions with them. They are productive and managed to make the transition of life stages much less painful as your parents’ age. If you want more information on this topic you can read Dan Taylor’s book, The Parent Solution: A Legacy of Love.

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