Created in the 1960s by President John F. Kennedy and the National Council of Senior Citizens, May celebrates “Older Americans Month.” The month seeks to acknowledge the contributions of older persons in our country. One way to observe and honor your family is to organize a conversation about planning for the future with and for your beloved seniors.

Having a Hard Conversation

Let’s acknowledge that family life is a series of ups and downs. It’s filled with memories of life-altering conversations. Recall some of those chats, between parent/child about “the birds & the bees,” the “we are moving” parent to child, or later in life, the dreaded “how do you want to spend your later years?” As an adult child, is it time to have a conversation with your aging parent(s)?

With Mother’s Day or Father’s Day right around the corner, it’s not the ideal time for an essential yet sensitive discussion. Instead, utilize the moment to acknowledge their contributions to their community and family. Express your honest desire to honor their wishes about the future and seek their agreement to discuss their plans. Ideally, the outcome is setting a date to have the first conversation.

You’ll want to bring up topics during your conversation, such as:

  • Financial & Legal Affairs
    • Finalize Will and estate planning documents
    • Review financial resources vs. needs
  • Housing/Living Arrangements
    • Aging in Place opportunities
    • Continuing Care Communities
  • Independence & Supportive Care
    • Safely driving
    • Safety and assistive device
    • In-home support
  • End of life wishes and celebrations
    • Burial or cremation preferences
    • Funeral or celebration of life event

Don’t get blindsided by differences in generational expectations, cultural norms, and economic circumstances that influence a senior’s plans vs. your reality. Quite often, circumstances don’t always align with expectations. As a busy, working professional, it’s altogether possible you are unlikely to provide the necessary level of caregiving in your home. Still, you may be willing to offer supplemental financial resources that create that comfort level. Your reality is a contrast to your senior who perhaps expected to move into your home. These expectations, if not discussed within a family, could result in friction and arguments if assumptions are made. The physical distance between family members will likely also play a role in the need for outside support.

Are you lucky enough that your loved ones initiated the conversation? Perhaps you’re the driving force in making it happen. In either case, it is vital to let seniors set the pace. It is too easy to steamroll a loved one when waiting for answers they might not be ready to give. For adult children of seniors, grab a copy of “How to Say it to Seniors” to bolster your communications skills and overcome the challenges of the topic.

Are you still feeling overwhelmed with the process? If you don’t want to go it alone, build a professional support team, including a daily money manager and a geriatric care manager or Aging Life Care Professional® who can help your family move forward.

Other Things to Discuss

Not every discussion needs to be the drudgery of filling out forms or determining how to spend your loved one’s last days. Are you met with resistance from your parents or unwilling to discuss more sentimental topics? Approach gently and assume that you have to ask differently before receiving a response. Maybe your senior finds it easier to express thoughts in the written word. Encourage them to write love letters filled with memories and important life lessons. You can continue to cherish these written memoirs once they’re gone.

Have you considered what happens to old photographs? Our friends at Pixorium specialize in memorializing old photos into picture books. Founder Jiffy Page shares her expertise in the webinar Unearth Your Family’s Photo Gems, where she suggests creating a plan, having a purpose, and supplying tools. Pixorium offers many great ways to move your family memories beyond the dusty box in the basement and into daily life.

If your loved one has a or several beloved pet companions, it’s another topic for conversation. Ensuring these companions have quality care eliminates a squabble. At a minimum, identify an emergency caregiver for unforeseen situations.

At Organized Instincts, our seasoned team of daily money managers help you keep your loved ones’ financial affairs in order while maintaining their independent lifestyle. Schedule a free consultation today, and we can help you know what questions to ask before your hard conversation.