The Conversation with Your Aging Parent(s) 

At some point, you need to talk to your aging parents about everything—their plans, their desires, their assets, their past.  You can’t delay the conversation. Here are some of the topics you need to cover and some tips on how to proceed.

You first need to think about your relationships with your parents.  I’m speculating on the premise that they are good, because, if they’re not, everything gets messy.

You need to find out whether they’ve made a will.  You need to find out whether they’ve set up a living trust, and what those provisions might be. If they haven’t set it up, encourage them to do so.  Find out who makes medical decisions.  If they’re both still alert, they’ll make them for each other.  If not, and if you’re the one in your family who can make those decisions, have them make you the decision maker.  Find out their wishes.  Do they want heroic measures taken?  If so, for how long?

Remember that doctors prefer to deal with only one family member so as to reduce confusion.  Have them sign releases so you that can establish relations between doctors, lawyers, accountants, and you; make sure that they contact those professionals to start that process.  Should you have them, begin the process of talking about all this with your siblings.

Find out about how their house is held.  Is there a residential home exemption?  Is the house paid off?  Will they want to stay there as they age?  Do they need accessible home modifications—there are government programs available for these changes.  Will they need accessible technology?  There are books and newspapers for the blind, voice activated remotes, etc.

Have them add you to checking and savings accounts so that you can pay bills if necessary.  Find out what bills come due and when.  Discover where the old pictures are.  Sit down and have a long and pleasant discussion about family history.  Perhaps you can start a genealogical discussion with them.  Record their words, if possible, to give to sibs, grandchildren, etc.

If they are willing to relocate when they need help, talk about where they wish to live.  Can or should they live with you or another sibling?  What about Assisted Living Facilities?  What if they need to have separate facilities?  Are there places where both their needs can be met?

You want to talk to them before they get too set in their ways.  They may have hearing difficulties.  Be prepared to repeat and be patient.  You may want to bring all of you to a therapist to help facilitate the conversation.  Be prepared that you may need several discussions over time to get all of this done.


Leave a Reply