We don’t have to tell you that being prepared for the future is important. When it comes to a parent or parents, do you know what their wishes are or what their future plans might look like? It’s important to have these conversations early in case something unexpected happens or time gets away from you.
Talking with a parent about their future doesn’t have to be difficult, but for some it can be. Some parents already have a solid plan in place and have communicated it with family members and others. This post is meant for those that have not shared a plan or have not thought about it themselves. Here are a few easy steps to help you talk with your aging parents about their future.
Step 1: Put yourself in their shoes. Try to have empathy in this situation. Talking about the future can be hard, especially for someone who is not prepared. Having all of your personal information out on the table is hard for many people. Practice patience and understanding as you work toward a plan for the future. Think about the entire situation before confronting a parent about the conversation you’d like to have. Sometimes it’s all in the approach that you take.
NOTE: Consider bringing another family member or sibling into the conversation. Perhaps bring your spouse along for moral support.
Step 2: Set a date to talk. After taking time to think about the entire situation, set a date with your parents to talk about their future plans. Make sure you pick a date in the next couple weeks. You don’t want to draw it out for too long. Make sure you chat in a comfortable place with little to no distractions. This is an important conversation that needs full commitment from all parties involved. Remember that this can be a hard topic for parents to talk with their children about. Try to stay calm and bring no judgments to the table.
Step 3: Have a list of questions ready. Your first question should be: Do you have a plan for your future and if so, can you please share with us? Another question might be: Where would you like to live as you get older? In a retirement home or assisted living community? If they have a solid plan, that’s great. You probably don’t have to continue on to the below steps. If they do not, the planning starts now. Ask them in detail what their wishes are for all of the portend issues, which might include burial request, funeral services, financial obligations, and more. Try not to leave any stone unturned.
NOTE: If their plans differ from what you think is right for them, use this time to talk with an expert and/or other family members on how to move forward. A deeper conversation or a step back might be appropriate at this time.
Step 3: Don’t overdo it. You might need to schedule two or more times to get together and chat about this. There is a lot to go over, so don’t overdo it in the first meeting with your parents. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm anyone in the process. Plan ahead with the important topics you need to talk about and be aware that it might take a lot of time to get to the bottom of everything. That’s ok! As long as you don’t give up.
Step 4: Follow through with your action items. After you have a solid plan in place, don’t forget to follow up on all of the action items. If you or they need to make arrangements or talk with a financial advisor or lawyer, don’t forget to do so. Set a deadline and follow through.
Step 5: Revisit the topic(s) at least once a year. Perhaps their wishes have changed or their financial situation was not as you thought it would be.
Step 6: Take a deep breath and feel good about getting this done. It’s not always easy, but it’s great to understand and talk about what’s best for your parents’ future.
Good luck and let us know if you have any questions. We are always here to help. Many people go through this and it’s important to remember that you are not alone.