There was a time when your parents dreaded having “the talk” with you. If you’re like many baby boomers, the roles are now reversed and it’s you who is dreading “the talk.” This talk isn’t about the birds and the bees, though. Rather, it’s about your parent’s health, their ability to live independently, and how to pay for any care they may need.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a person turning 65 today has a 70 percent chance of needing some form of long-term care. On average, they will need that care for three years. Long-term care is often required when someone has trouble performing basic life functions, such as eating, bathing and getting dressed.
It may not be pleasant to discuss long-term care with your parent, but it’s a conversation that needs to happen. It’s possible that you’ll be in a position where you have to make decisions on their behalf. To do that, you’ll need to know their wishes.
Also, you could find yourself financially responsible for your parent’s care. They may not have the resources to pay for the level of care they want or need. Also, there have been some instances in which courts have held children responsible for paying their parent’s outstanding long-term care bills. With your own retirement ahead of you, it’s important that you protect your financial stability while also supporting your parent.
Of course, having this discussion may not be easy. Your parent may be extremely resistant to the idea and protective of their independence. They might want to stay in their longtime home. They could be afraid of moving into a facility with new people. They could be scared that a move to assisted living means they’re nearing the end of their life.
Talking about long-term care with your parents is always difficult, but there are things you can do to make it easier. Below are a few tips to help you initiate and guide the conversation:
Use an outside example to broach the topic.
You may have friends who are also dealing with their parents’ declining health. Perhaps a friend’s parent has recently moved into a facility, or maybe they clung on to independence too long and suffered an accident.
Tell your parent about that experience. You could share that your friend’s parent loves their new home. Or, conversely, you could talk about how you’re concerned about a similar accident. Use this conversation to see how open your parent is to talking about the subject. You may find that they’ve also been thinking about their need for care.
Stress that you only want to be prepared.
From the outset, let them know you’re not pressuring them to do anything today. You just want to be prepared for the future. You want to know what their wishes are. What kind of facility would they be open to? Are there any specific facilities they have considered? What funds or insurance do they have available to pay for care?
You need to know these answers, because it’s likely you will have a big role in the decision-making process. Stress that you’re not looking for a decision on anything. You only want information.
Take baby steps.
It may be that you think your parent is ready for assisted living. However, if they insist that they’re not, you may not want to damage your relationship by forcing them into a situation they don’t want.
Instead, think of possible baby steps toward assisted living. For instance, you could start with in-home care to keep them safe and to give them a taste of what it’s like to receive care.
Some assisted living facilities will let prospective guests spend the day there or go on group outings. Your parent could do this and see if they like the social aspect. Take some tours of facilities just to see what they’re like. Seeing a facility firsthand could change your parent’s thinking.
No one wants to see their parent struggle with declining health. You also don’t want to be unprepared when the time comes for them to transition into assisted living. Start the conversation with your parent today.
Here at Carstens Financial Group in Arnold’s Park, Iowa, we can help you and your parent have this discussion. We can consult with you and other family members, help you establish priorities, identify needs and develop a funding strategy. Contact us today to start the conversation.
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