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Difficult Conversations with Ageing Relatives

November 28, 2023

As many of us face the reality of ageing relatives, it might be on our mind to do what we can to ensure they are cared for in their later years.

This includes physical, mental, and financial health. And though these elements may be beyond our direct control, inaction can lead to stressful situations that could have been avoided if we just talked it through.

We cannot ignore the fact that sometimes people don’t want to have these conversations. There seems to be this belief that if we begin talking about, or planning for, the inevitable it will only happen sooner. Yet that is not the reality. The reality is that the inevitable will happen and when it does, those that are left behind are the ones who will be grieving and having to navigate a process that can be complicated and frustrating.

This begs the question; how do you have these difficult conversations?

The team at Bigmore Wills & Probate has these difficult conversations on a near daily basis. We also guide our clients through how to have them with their ageing relatives. Though these techniques won’t work with everyone we have put together some of the ways we approach conversations about things such as their Wills, Lasting Power of Attorney, inheritance tax, care fees and the need to have your financial information and estate arranged in a way which will keep the process as simple as possible for your loved ones.

Enter the conversation with a clear idea of what you want to talk about

Before you start talking, know what you want to talk about. Going in without a clear idea of which topics you want to cover, and why you want to cover them, could lead to an unfocused, insecure conversation. The clearer you are on what you want to discuss, the better you will be able to guide and navigate what could be a tricky conversation.

Educate yourself

Before you broach the subject, make sure you understand it. Often people are reluctant to discuss later life topics because they don’t understand them or their importance. If you know what having a Will, having an LPA means, what this paperwork covers, you will be able to communicate that to your loved one and explain the importance of those documents. It can also give you a sense of authority to be taking the lead on this conversation.

educate yourself on how to care for an ageing relative

Don’t be afraid to talk about the “What If’s”

Actions have consequences. So does inaction. If explaining what happens when you have your paperwork in place does not resonate, it can be helpful to explain what happens if they don’t.

Now, this can be tricky as you don’t want to scare anyone. But knowing the “what if’s” provides a different type of reality check which some people respond to more.  For example, if it’s an LPA, explaining that without one you will be unable to make payments from their bank account should something happen to them which means they are unable to do it themselves. Or with a will, if they have not laid out who they want to inherit what, the estate will fall to the rules of Intestacy. Without arranging these documents, you give the control away. Anything medical becomes the decision of medical professionals. Anything related to distributing your estate is controlled by government regulations and anything financial is controlled by no one. If you want to stay organised and be sure you have the people you want making the decisions for you, you must have these documents in place.

Have an end goal in mind (for them and you)

For you, it’s important to know what you are aiming to achieve in your conversation. Is this just about making them aware they need to think about things, or are you trying to get them to take action? If you think they will be particularly resistant to having the conversation it might be a good idea to casually bring up the need to think about it. If there is pressure to get things sorted in the immediate, for example their health is starting to decline, know that you are going into the conversation with the intention of having them take immediate action and begin to arrange their affairs.

For them, be clear on what with be the result of the action they take. Ask them if they would like to know who will be in control of their affairs, should the need arise, or if they would like to give that control away to an unknown party. The aim of having LPAs and Wills in place is for both their peace of mind and yours.

Be matter of fact

Death is a fact. Therefore, arranging the logistics of it should also be a fact. There might be elements of this process that are emotive, but what you are looking to discuss is not how you feel about the process or the decisions the person will make during the process. It is about the factual aspects of planning for later life and end of life concerns.

Keep your emotions in check

It is highly likely talking about a person’s potential ill health or death will make them feel a certain way. It will likely make you feel a certain way as well. Though you do not want to be stoic and cold in these conversations, you must also keep your emotions in check.  

The aim of these talks is not to upset anyone. They are meant to mitigate the avoidable paperwork, processes, stress, and heartache that could happen if the proper documents are not in place.

the hands of ageing relatives

Point them to expert help

After you’ve spoken to your loved one, give them the details of a qualified and experienced will writer and estate planner. This will be particularly beneficial if they are resistant to go through the specifics with you. Often, people find it easier to navigate the more emotive exercises with a neutral party. It takes the emotion away and highlights the transactional nature of the process. A process which can save considerable time, money, stress, and heartache, if done ahead of time.

Bigmore Wills & Probate

If you need further guidance on what your loved one needs to do or want to point them in the direction of a qualified and experienced Will Writer and Estate Planner, Bigmore Wills & Probate is here to help. With over 20 years of experience in estate planning we know how complex and delicate these situations can be. Our direct and empathetic approach allows us to clearly communicate with our clients while being sensitive to the topics we are discussing.

To book a free, no obligation discovery call with Luke click this link or fill out the contact form below.