Tips on Having 'The Talk' With Aging Parents

If you're a baby boomer, you may already have had "the talk" with your growing children. But have you had "the talk" with your aging parents as well?

That talk involves a frank discussion with parents about financial arrangements for the end of life. The discussion should include where the parents want to live, how they want to be cared for, how they want their money managed, and what kinds of burial or funeral arrangements they would prefer.

The start of a new year can be a good time to start thinking about parents' financial affairs, according to an in-depth article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on having "the talk."

The hard part about talking with aging parents, according to the article, is that they're used to being in charge, instead of getting advice from their children.

"It's one of the hardest things that we as adult children have to do," says Sandra Timmermann, a gerontologist and director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. "We have to be brave and take a deep breath and plunge into the cold water."

The article outlines some of the topics that should be covered, including paying for long-term care and setting up powers of attorney, and offers strategies for starting a productive discussion. Some strategies:

  • Use your own planning, or a friend's or relative's illness or death, as an opportunity to start a discussion.
  • Be direct and honest.
  • If your parents are unwilling to disclose a full list of their assets, perhaps they would be willing to write down account numbers without balances or make a list and tell you where the list is kept.
  • Meet with a lawyer to review the parents' wills, health care directives and powers of attorney for property and health care.
  • Don't expect to work out an entire plan for the end of life in one sitting.