For many families, it’s the elephant in the room: the necessary but potentially awkward discussions between aging parents and adult children about subjects like where the parents envision living as they grow older and more dependent on others, the role family members are willing (and not willing) to play in caring for an ailing parent, and, of course, how the potentially weighty financial responsibilities associated with elder care will be handled.
As much as families tend to avoid talking frankly and openly about sensitive issues such as these, the best outcomes tend to be those in which a family addresses the “what-ifs” proactively, putting the issues on the table for discussion before a crisis forces their hand, says Sandra D. Adams, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) professional with the Center for Financial Planning, Inc., in Southfield, MI. “I suggest people talk about this stuff earlier rather than later, before there’s a real issue. Otherwise you end up having to make snap decisions in crisis mode, when emotions are running high and people maybe aren’t thinking as clearly as they need to be.”
How, then, to banish the elephant in the room and start having these crucial conversations around the family dynamics of elder care? And, once the ice is broken, what issues to prioritize during the dialogue? Here are five suggestions to help initiate and frame the discussions: