It's no secret that families tend to shy away from the topics of money and death more often than not. The fact, however, is that caregiving decisions often revolve around money, as care options will vary greatly depending on one's assets. So money plays a very important role in the choices that are made and discussions that take place between family members.
Understanding generational differences with respect to money can help today's caregivers. Like my own parents who were raised during the Depression, money for our oldest generation was to be saved. Before the era of mass production of goods, this generation did not waste, valued "things" in terms of their quality and how long they would last. Older generations did not accumulate debt but rather watched their nest egg grow through hard work and perseverance. One of their goals is the ability to leave an inheritance for their children. In turn, adult children have expected this nest egg, rightfully or not. And this is when conflict arises when families are faced with decisions on parent's long-term care.
Too often, parents are reluctant to talk with their children about their financial situation. My advice was always to give their children the gift of talking about it BEFORE needs arose for decisions to be made that may conflict with theirs. So plan A is always for families to approach this difficult topic earlier than later.
Try to start the conversation with a what-if scenario. "Mom, we want to make sure that decisions regarding care are ones that you had envisioned. We never know what to expect, but what if you fell and broke your hip and this required you to have ongoing care. Can we talk about what this might entail and what you would want as next steps?"
Or another conversation starter might look like this: "Dad, you have always been such a wonderful provider and keep such great care of your finances; I know everything is fine now, but what if something happened to you? Can we talk about how you would like help with paying bills?"
Children and other family members need to be respectful of the money issue, understanding that when one gives up oversight of their finances, even if it's perceived as such, it's a huge step in losing independence. Tread these waters gently, approach with a sincere heart and understand that an initial response from others may be to pull back. If that's the case, then give it time, and reapproach maybe at a different time and with another family member present.
Put yourselves in the place of that person before approaching, and ask how you would like to hear the words of the person talking about the difficult money topic.
Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.