Elderly parents and care: how to have that difficult conversation
Contrary to popular belief, difficult conversations aren’t restricted to our teenage years. Adulthood brings its fair share of uncomfortable topics – not least those related to our ageing parents and their finances and plans for later life care.
If you’re yet to have that conversation, here’s how to handle this delicate situation with care.
Do I need to have that conversation?
Asking sensitive questions about someone’s personal affairs isn’t easy and it’s particularly difficult to broach the subject of financial planning and care with your own parents.
But whilst these are difficult topics to bring up, it’s important that you know who your parents would like – and trust – to manage their affairs if they’re unable to make their own decisions.
The Alzheimer’s Society predicts that 225,000 people will develop dementia this year alone – that’s one person every three minutes. But whilst one in six people over 80 will develop dementia, it isn’t a condition which only affects the elderly. In fact, 40,000 people with dementia in the UK are under 65.
None of us can predict if or when something might happen to our elderly parents, but getting prepared by writing a Will and Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) will help in making legal, financial and medical decisions for those you love, should you ever need to.
Why is it such a difficult conversation to have?
Let’s be honest, old age, death and finances are taboo subjects. Parents are reluctant to face their own mortality and don’t want to consider the fact that they might need later life care.
But if something happened to your parents tomorrow, would you know where to find their Will? Do they have an LPA in place? What are their wishes for end-of-life care?
If you can’t answer these questions, you need to talk to your parents. Being aware of their situation means you’ll be better placed to take decisions in the event that one or both parents need care and support.
Tips for broaching difficult subjects
Talk early and talk often: A good relationship and regular dialogue with your parents about their plans for later life can make it easier to introduce sensitive subjects into wider discussions.
Try not to leave the ‘big’ topics until crisis point. The reality is that conversations are easier when things are going well – so talk early and talk regularly wherever possible.
Be clear about your intentions: Emphasise to your parents that your interest isn’t in your inheritance; but simply in ensuring that their affairs are in order and you’re aware of their final wishes.
Create a conversation: If you’re struggling to find an opening, create one yourself. Try telling a (fictional) story to get your parents talking about money – such as one about the problems a friend faced when dealing with a deceased parent’s estate.
Or talk to them about your situation – tell them what steps you’ve taken to put your financial affairs in order and ask them if they’ve done the same.
Put up a united front: Too many people broaching the same subject can feel like an ambush, so speak to your siblings in advance. A calm, considered and consistent approach is much more likely to produce a positive outcome.
Be sensitive: This is a difficult topic so be empathetic to this. Pick your moment carefully and look for potential conversation starters in everyday life.
Be upbeat and positive about writing a Will or LPA. Stress that these actions are precautionary – having these documents will ensure that their wishes are followed and carried out by the people they would choose.
We understand how difficult it can be to discuss care and finances with elderly relatives.