Whether about finances or health, having big conversations with parents as an adult child can be challenging. The dynamics between a parent and child remain, no matter what age, and this can be a barrier to discussions, particularly when parents need more help as they get older. Our Founder and Clinical Director Matt Lundquist recently appeared in The Wall Street Journal and WESA to address how to best approach difficult conversations with aging parents.
In The Wall Street Journal’s “How to Give Your Parents Advice That They Will Actually Listen To,” Matt explains that patience can be key to navigating an important discussion with older parents. However, an adult child’s emotions, whether anxiety about the conversation itself or emotions related to the relationship with their parent, can often get in the way. “If you can,” Matt says, “put these feelings aside.” If you don’t know if you can, he encourages doing a bit of reality testing with a friend before approaching a parent. This way, if the emotions are too strong and overwhelm your ability to have the conversation, you can consider other options such as family therapy for adult families.
Matt also urges adult children to not be afraid to wait and return to the subject at a later date when a parent may be more open and receptive to hearing a different perspective. “Wait a bit and come back to it from a different angle,” he emphasizes. “Maybe they were dealing with too much before.”
Similarly, in “The Cost of Forgetting: Dementia’s Tax on Financial Health” on WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR news station, Matt gets more specific about how to approach a senior parent or family member about their increasing inability to maintain their own finances as they face dementia or other cognitive difficulties. Even as struggles with finances put their financial stability, as well as related well-being, at risk, older adults can frequently wrestle with the decision to relinquish control of their own finances. This is understandable because, as Matt observes, “money can represent stability, control, power, autonomy, and safety.” It can be a huge shift in an adult’s consideration of their independence and identity to no longer be able to handle finances themselves.
If an older parent or family member struggles with money, Matt suggests prepping them for the coming conversation about finances. Let them know you want to set aside a time to sit down and talk about money issues so that they won’t feel blindsided by the discussion. “It makes a difficult conversation much more likely to go well,” Matt asserts.