Let’s face it: sitting your aging parents down to talk about their finances is about as comfortable as talking to them about sex (eons ago, they probably felt the same way you do right now!) But just as it was back then, the conversation- though difficult- is imperative to your future decision making.
Beat Around The Bush: It may feel misleading, but it will keep the conversation relaxed. Casually mention a recent disaster (hurricane, flood, fire, etc) which affected other people and ask what they would do if they were in that type of emergency situation. If their answer is vague, point out that it’s important for them to have control of their care and sharing their wishes with you will make it easier for you to follow through.
Use Clear Examples: If your parent insists on brushing you off, point out the consequences of being in the dark about their finances. Should they not be in a capacity to manage their bills, how would you be able to take over for them? Electricity and heat could be shut off, insurance payments would lapse, and the results could be catastrophic. Don’t be afraid to illustrate how their care can be compromised if your attention is being spent on problems that could have been avoided.
Nurture The Seed: Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, your parents are likely to understand the benefits of transparency. This is a perfect segue into a conversation about power of attorney, health care proxies and other legal matters. In a Caregiver’s Handbook published on PBS.org, you can find a basic introduction to these legal documents as they relate to elder care.
Above all, make certain that your parents feel in control of their future. Remember, the conversation is about how you can help them execute their wishes.
Other Resources:GCMs Can Facilitate the Family Conversation