Q: My parents are refusing to
talk. Should I drop it?
A: Itís common for people to resist
all this talking. Let them know thatís okay, you
understand. But also let them know that you do want
to address these issues, that itís important.
Letting them steer this, asking them to talk about
their concerns, will help. Be gentle, but
persistent. But no, donít drop it. Believe it or
not, most people do eventually open up, at least to
some extent, and are relieved when they do. If they
really wonít talk, no matter how you try, then talk
with other family members and do the best you can to
Q: My brothers and sisters and I
donít agree on how to handle the situation. How do
we begin to figure it out?
A: Of course, your parent should be
making the decisions. But if he or she is no longer
able, then get a professional to settle any debates
about your parentís health, legal situation or
finances. For example, sometimes a person in the
early stages of dementia can seem perfectly normal
when an out-of-town child stops by. The confusion is
more apparent to the child who is there regularly.
Donít fight about it; get your parent in for an
evaluation and let a medical team explain the
problem. If the disagreement is about her living
situation, a case manager, social worker or
geriatric care manager might help sort things
through. If no one has been granted power of
attorney, then the child who serves as the primary
care giver should have the most say. Often there is
no right or wrong answer. Ask yourself if this issue
is really more important than your relationship with
your sibling. All siblings should have a chance to
participate in making plans and providing support.
Q: I want to talk to my parents
but donít want them to think that Iím unwilling to
care for them, or that Iím a gold digger.
A: Then tell them exactly that. Be
direct. Let them know that you want to be there for
them, and that you are not concerned about
inheritance. And in case you are eyeing what you
might get, and many people do, remember that any
money is for your parentís care, absolutely and
Q: Iíve talked with my parents,
but they refuse to take any action. They wonít sign
advance directives and they refuse to think about
long term care needs. Iím so frustrated!
A: Youíre not alone, and your
frustration is completely understandable. Their
decisions and lack of action may have a big impact
on you one day if they are sick and you are left to
sort things out. Try different approaches. If you
spoke to your parents in person, now try writing a
letter. Or get someone else to talk with them. You
might find that they are more willing to listen to
your brother or uncle. Illustrate what may happen if
they donít plan (decisions will be made for them,
they might run out of money, the court might get
involved, etc.). Talk to them about how their
resistance to plan will affect you and your
siblings. You could also make a deal with them. Tell
them that if they will just talk to a financial
advisor or attorney, then you will stop bothering
them. If possible, take a break and let the subject
drop for a couple of months, and then revisit it.
When youíve used up all your tricks, back off. They
are adults and they have the right to make decisions
ó or to fail to make decisions ó about their lives.
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