Three things I’ve learned about the aged care conversation

Your first thought about having a conversation about aged care wouldn’t necessarily be to contact your financial planner.

After all, it’s a sensitive area, even in the best parent – child relationships.

But here’s the thing: working with people across every age and stage of life, financial planners have the privilege of sharing people’s journeys, financially and otherwise.  

Purely as a function of being ‘there’ at times of pivotal life change (birth, death, marriage, divorce, bankruptcy and boom), frequently it is put upon us to be more than just financial planners.

Now my wife would be the first person to query my qualifications as a ‘go to’ person to discuss the softer side of managing the aged care conversation, but with growing frequency, it’s a conversation I am required to wade into with clients who face the issue of providing suitable ongoing care for their parents.

In the last week alone, I’ve had two such conversations, as my clients grappled with how to have a conversation about ongoing care, with the people most directly affected by that conversation – their parents.

Whether it’s precipitated by illness, unexpected accidents, and general concern that it’s time to start opening up a dialogue, almost without exception, the prospect of broaching this topic brings up fears, discomfort, and in some cases, unresolved emotional issues.

This makes the aged care conversation a challenge.  Combined with the anticipated resistance from parents, it’s a wonder these conversations happen at all.

And it’s why I share here the few things I’ve learned.

#1 It’s not about conversation, it’s about communication

The aged care conversation you have with an ageing parent is not as much as about the conversation as it is about your communication.

The way I see it, this sensitive area requires understanding, empathy, consideration, and a considered appreciation of the values of the person you’re speaking with.

If we go another layer deeper, it involves communicating in language and a tone that resonates, rather than rubs your parents up the wrong way.

I’m pretty concrete, but I consider these things to be the hallmark of good communication, regardless of topic.

Without question then, they should be brought to the table when talking with your parents about their care options.

To achieve this level of communication intelligence requires some work.  If the outcome is our parents’ engagement in the process, then this preparation is what’s necessary.

Think about it this way.  What’s most important to them.  Is it independence?  Maybe it’s feeling a connection with family and others.  If so, can you identify ways that what you’re suggesting will help them with those concerns?

Consider their perception of aged care and how that may have been formed.  Did a close friend or relative have a negative experience?  Do they see it as one step closer to being forgotten and gone?

If that’s the case, it’s important to acknowledge their feelings and demonstrate how the care options you’re suggesting are responsible and caring.

Easier said than done, which is why preparation, like writing your thoughts down and even rehearsing them is a good idea.

Including other relevant family members may also be valuable, but be mindful of ensuring there is a shared understanding of the approach.  This will help to avoid conversations getting out of hand and becoming unproductive.

#2 Have the aged care conversation sooner, not later

I’ll admit to there being an element of financial planner’s logic with this one, but there’s no doubt, having the aged care conversation sooner rather than later will pay dividends, and not just financially.

My preference would always be to engage parents as early as possible, ideally while they are still healthy, well, confident, and coherent.

In the long term, this will make all the difference.

There is a greater likelihood your parents will feel respected because they have been party to the ultimate go-forward plan.  This makes it easier for them to accept when the plan does get implemented.

For your part, there is the assurance a contingency is in place should either parent be rendered unable to make such decisions.  It takes all the guesswork out of the ‘what if’ scenarios that arise when least expected.

So have the aged care conversation sooner, not later.

#3 The aged care conversation is a mini series, not a blockbuster

Here’s a Gino Truth: big issues are rarely resolved at a first cut.  In a best case scenario, you might end up with a very ordinary first draft.  

It’s exactly the same when it comes to the aged care conversation.  Actually, what I really mean is conversations.

This is why I say the aged care conversation is a mini series, not a blockbuster.

Thinking you’ll nail the aged care conversation with your parents in one go is like kidding yourself a particular stock is going to answer your every financial prayer.  It’s possible, but probability isn’t on your side.

The reason I share this lesson is because it helps manage expectations.  Yours especially.

I’ve seen a lot of people naively take a very prescriptive approach thinking they’ll have it sorted very quickly, i.e. they’ll talk to their parent or parents and life will go on.

How about no?

Where emotions and people’s lives are involved, not only is one conversation not enough, it’s neither real nor respectful.

By setting balanced expectations and being prepared you are better positioned to have the multiple conversations your parents’ ongoing care warrants.

Are you facing this dilemma at the moment?  If you are, what lessons can you share here?  I’d love to hear them.

If you have any questions about the available options around aged care and how to manage this process, please get in touch.




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