In a recent post, I suggested children ask senior parents the whereabouts of their important documents, such as a Durable Power of Attorney. It’s critical information to have if your parent is suddenly hospitalized or incapacitated, but no one likes to think about having this discussion. A conversation about parents’ finances can be more awkward.In a Wall Street Journal article, When It’s Time to Huddle, the author addressed the timing and necessity of discussing finances with a parent. A woman interviewed knew she needed to talk to her father about his finances when her mother’s home-health aid overheard him struggling to do a bank transaction on the phone and he couldn’t recall his password.
Even if adult children have spoken with aging parents about health concerns related to aging, or have a caregiver plan in place, the “money talk” is a loaded topic for seniors and their children. Ability to handle finances can be a parent’s toughest loss since it’s so directly tied to maintaining independence. If you add in challenging relationship issues between siblings or with parents, there can also be an emotional minefield to negotiate.
The article suggests scheduling a family meeting, with the parent(s) included. There’s frequently a child living close to the parents, coordinating needed care and it may take some tough logistics to arrange, but it’s important for siblings living farther away to attend.
The following suggestions will help:
Have the meeting ASAP – Addressing the issue and creating a plan is best done before things deteriorate further with a parent.
Have a plan in place – Even though you want to encourage open conversation, there should be an underlying plan, discussed in advance of the meeting.
Assign a meeting leader – While everyone should express their thoughts and opinions, someone must agree to facilitate the meeting.
Brainstorm – Remember it’s a discussion of possible solutions and there is no right or wrong answer.
Hire a mediator if needed – If tricky issues are present in the family, it might be best to hire a professional. Geriatric-care coordinators have experience dealing with family conflict. An attorney or accountant are other options.