By Patty Aiken, Owner, Home Instead Senior Care

     It’s easy to put off uncomfortable conversations about issues such as end of life, living choices and finances. However, that procrastination could have unfortunate consequences.    Two-thirds of family disputes over aging or end-of-life issues that end up in court could have been avoided if families had clearly discussed wishes in advance, estimates both senior care and legal professionals surveyed by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network. When families do talk, a family emergency is often the trigger. According to the research: 70 percent of family conversations about aging issues (in the U.S. and Canada) are prompted by an event such as a health crisis.  

1. Starting “the talk” is one thing, finishing it is another. Nearly 100 percent of estate planning attorneys and lawyers surveyed (in the U.S. and Canada) agree it’s important to document wishes in writing.

2. Conversations are the first step, but don’t rely on anyone’s memory. “Look for opportunities to have a discussion,” said communication expert Dr. Jake Harwood from the University of Arizona. “Seize the chance to talk. Whether it’s a friend who is having problems, or a particular dramatic moment in a television show, those can be starting points to begin a conversation about ‘what if that was us!’“

3. Also, what if you are a part of a blended family? If we could have seen the “Brady Bunch” grow old, who knows what issues they may have faced! An estimated 25% of American men and women report being married at least two times by age 50, according to the National Stepfamily Resource Center. About 42% of adults have at least one step relative, with 30% indicating they have a step- or halfsibling, according to a Pew Research Center survey. This type of situation makes it even more important that families have conversations about roles and responsibilities of all parties before a crisis takes place. Making a Plan A and committing it to writing helps clarify these important roles so that families avoid conflict and unnecessary stress on relationships.

A rule of thumb is that when you are in your 40’s and your loved ones are in their 70’s, you should have the “talk” about these issues. For some families, these conversations are not so difficult. For some, they are. Creating a genuine, caring and trusting environment can help start things off on the right foot. Understanding how to approach your loved one is key to a successful outcome. There are many other ways to accomplish this mission and you can find important tips and helpful information by going to www.4070talk.com.