5 topics to discuss with your aging parents

When you think about adulting, it’s all about relying on your parents less, right? Well, here’s the secret: As you grow up and rely less on your parents, they, sensing your newfound confidence and maturity, will begin to rely more on you! It’s the circle of life (cue the Lion King music), and this post will walk you through the talks you need to have with your parents to prepare you as they hand over the torch. If your parents already treat you as their tech support hotline...you know it’s time for this talk!

Do you have parents near or over the age of 65? Most Canadians who do have older parents feel it’s important to discuss elder caregiving and financial support, but nearly two-thirds (62%) of them have not yet done so, based on a recent CIBC poll. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable. Furthermore, the same poll states that only 22% of boomers (parents of millennials) have formalized their wishes should they become ill or pass away. They too want to put off important conversations. The bottom line? Both groups know that they need a family playbook, and neither one is willing to take the lead. We challenge you to start the process with your parents! 

The 5 topics below are our top picks for what needs to be covered in this playbook, and we provide our favourite resources to help you along the way. 

The Care Talk:
We often say that the journey to caring for an ailing parent is like having a baby, but you don’’t have 9 months to prepare for it. As much as we all expect our parents to remain independent well into their older years, the reality is that they might fall down, get a sudden illness like a stroke, get into a car accident, develop dementia or any other illness. These will drastically change your parent’s ability to take care of themselves. You and your siblings are suddenly responsible for helping them with daily tasks, altering their home environment, helping financially and becoming a health advocate, among many other tasks. 

This is a difficult topic, and you can’t plan all of it in advance, of course. You won’t ever know what is coming up, but the more you can learn about your parents’ preferences, the different responsibilities and everyone’s general expectations, the smoother it will all go when the time comes. Your parents may also be resistant to these conversations, and keep in mind, it’s ultimately their loss of independence, a very sensitive topic. Use this guide from the AARP to help with your planning and to cover all of the important bases. 

Financial Independence and Support:
Depending on your family’s situation, your parents may currently be helping you with your finances, or you may be beginning to help them. Neither one is right or wrong, the purpose of family is to be there to support one another. That being said, in addition to actual financial support, your parents may begin to need support with managing their finances. From banking, managing their property, investments and more. You can open the conversation and earn their trust by seeking their advice about how you manage your financial life and showing them the responsibility you have taken. This article in the Financial Post shows that you’re not alone, and walks you through the key areas to look into. 

The Next Generation of Money:
While the last section addressed your parents finances as they lose independence, it’s equally important to understand what will happen to their money, assets and belongings when they pass away. Some call this estate planning, others think of it as inheritance. Most young Canadians today have no idea about what would be required of them if their parents passed away suddenly. Do they have a will? Insurance policies? Where is everything located? What tax will you owe and what happens to their home? Do their siblings expect anything? Do yours? Who makes these decisions and who will be the one to implement them? All of these questions need answers, and sooner is better. This article will walk you through the first steps and our comprehensive checklist on Estate Planning will take you through the rest. 

The Stuff of Life:

As the Marie Kondo decluttering storm takes over, more and more Canadians are embracing the detached and minimal life. While our generation likes to accumulate experiences rather than belongings, our parents’ generation is a bit different. In our experience, it’s best to help parents be organized while you can, that way, if something happens to them, it is much simpler to arrange for care, or for them to move. It’s also a chance for them to pass on important belongings and the stories that come with them, while they still can. When your parents pass away, the responsibility will fall on you and your siblings to take care of their belongings. Click here to learn more about what the process should look like.

In addition to decluttering belongings, one of the most challenging tasks facing anyone today is the organization of their documents. Using our Filing Cabinet, help your parents get organized, shred old paperwork they don’t need, and safely store the important documents. This will really help avoid fraud, which is a growing concern for seniors in Canada.

Passing down wisdom:

This last one is less concrete, but perhaps the most important. Some people hide behind the difficult organizational tasks and forget to engage their parents to pass on the softer and more meaningful pieces of wisdom along the way. Going through these conversations and transitions with your parents can help begin the process. Try having your parents help you create family trees of the extended family, tell you stories about their childhood and yours, and share their greatest life lessons. Our generation will read articles and books all day to learn from famous successful people. Learning is always great, but your parents are a source of wisdom that is specific to your upbringing and your context, and they will not always be around to share this with you. We recommend thinking of your parents and grandparents as a “human library” where you try to use questions to unearth the pages and chapters of wisdom they have accumulated over a lifetime. Having trouble? Speak to their friends and get involved in their lives. 

We know these discussions are difficult, and we know they will look different for every family. Have you had these discussions with your parents? If so, what did you learn? Share in the comments section below!