Aging Parents and Money

I was recently asked to write an article as a guest author for the Love & Order website on the ever awkward conversations adult children struggle to have with their aging parents about money issues. I began the article with this observation:

Older adults have a deep resistance to having conversations with their adult children about money. Why? It arises from three psychological factors that coalesce in last phase of life to create resistive barriers to open discussions about financial issues. These factors are: the need for control, denial in the form of magical thinking and the righting reflex.

I go on to discuss these resistance factors and how they complicate an already complicated situation. Then I introduce the antidote to this conversational barrier called Resistance Calming Strategy:

This resistance calming strategy is a four step process that helps adult children signal through words and actions they are a trusted ally for financial issues. These include disclosure, analysis, solution vetting and an action plan.

The most effective way for adult children to introduce this strategy is to look for financial situations that have the potential for some element of collaboration. It might be increased costs for medications, unplanned home repairs, utility rate hikes or an overdue notice for taxes. Whatever the event, the first step in the strategy is to orchestrate disclosure about the situation.

I go on to discuss the four step process in detail and provide an important perspective on how to think about and use this approach with such a volatile topic as money:

In practice, the resistance calming strategy is not a linear process. The phases overlap and repeat themselves in the normal flow of conversation. Part of what holds the discussion together is the intentional framing that keeps aging parents in control of the process. The other part is the commitment by adult children to remain curious and nonjudgemental throughout the discussion.

Lastly, this may seem like a laborious strategy for what should be obvious and simple conversations about money. Unfortunately, there are few simple conversations about money between adult children and aging parents. If a natural rapport already exists, then resistance calming techniques are clearly unnecessary. But if rapport about money is lacking, which is usually the case, resistance calming proves a better choice then the untenable burden of repeated and unpleasant confrontations or even worse no communication at all.

Here is a link to the complete article entitled Unwanted Conversations: Aging Parents and Money. Please share this article with anyone who is caring for aging parents…Thank you

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