Important Conversations

I am so thankful I enjoy a great relationship with my parents. Even though I moved away from my hometown 19 years ago, I still get to spend time with them several times each year (but not as much as I would like). I call them often throughout the week to see how they are doing and to keep them updated on our lives and their grandkids. And sometimes I just call to talk with them. These moments are important to me, because I understand the brevity of life. We never know when the next conversation with our parents may be our last.

Most of the conversations we have with our parents are easy ones. They usually center around upcoming holidays, grandchildren, things going on in our lives, and so on. It’s the conversations about the future and the tough decisions facing aging parents that are difficult. In fact, many adult children and aging parents do not have these conversations at all.

I get it. It is not easy to have conversations with your parents about finances, long-term health care, or their last wishes. I have had and will continue to have those conversations with my parents. Yes, they are uncomfortable topics to discuss, but they have helped me understand their wishes and desires.

It is important for adult children to have these tough talks with their parents. Think about what happens when you don’t have these conversations. It leaves the door open for confusion over expectations and roles. It puts major stress on children to make decisions during times of crisis and loss. It even can create unexpected financial liability for healthcare costs.

You don’t have to wait for a crisis to get things in order. Planning ahead with parents and discussing their wishes and plans can ease the burden in the future. Now is the time to start communicating with your aging parents about what they want for their lives and future care. Here are four important topics of conversation you need to have with them:

Many adult children simply do not know the financial well-being of their parents. More and more senior adults are entering retirement financially unprepared. Having an open conversation about their finances and needs can help you understand what may be needed of you. It also can help you and your parents prepare for future expenses and avoid conflict down the road.

Future Housing Wishes
Your parents have thoughts about their future housing needs and where they would want to go if they no longer could care for themselves. You need to know their expectations, and they need to know your fiscal and physical capabilities. As much as you would like to honor your parents by caring for them in your home, you simply may not be able to do so. You may think a nursing home is a viable option, but they may be completely opposed to the idea. Working through these challenges can help mitigate stress and alleviate guilt and anger in the future.

End of Life Instructions
A conversation with your parents about their last wishes is by no means easy. Yet it is necessary. You need to know their plans for burial and their funerals, and whether they have any life insurance policies. Talk with them about living wills and their wishes for life-extending treatments. This will help you honor their wishes and release you from having to make difficult decisions during a very emotional time.

Legal Documents
Do your parents have a will? A trust? Power of attorney? Who is the executor? Where are their bank accounts located? Are there any investment or retirement accounts? Do they have a safety deposit box? Where are life insurance policies kept? You need to know the answers to these questions and where important documents are kept. Having legal documents in order and knowing how to handle your parents’ state of affairs can help ensure you meet their wishes and make life easier for you during difficult times.

None of us are ready for life without our parents. But having these important conversations ahead of time can ease the stress and burden when that time comes. Don’t wait until faced with a crisis. Talk with your parents sooner rather than later. By doing so, you will protect them from physical and financial woes and honor their wishes.


**Adapted from ONE Magazine