How do I have that difficult conversation with my aging family members?

Starting a conversation with your parents or older relatives about their parting wishes can be difficult and confronting, especially if they are ill. But having frank and open discussions about this sensitive topic will ensure that not only their requests are honoured, but also help removing some stress and potential family conflict during an extremely emotional time.

1. Start talking about it as early as possible

It is important to start the conversations earlier rather than later. Although we are living longer, more people experience illness that can impact their ability to make important decisions about their life. Currently 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 have some form of dementia, (1) and for those under 65, Australia has approximately 27,000 living with early onset dementia. (2) By having the conversations early, you can be assured that their decisions have been considered and genuinely are what they want.

2. Have more, shorter conversations

It can become overwhelming and emotional talking about every aspect of a person’s final wishes all at one time; type of funeral, flowers, wake, if there is a Will in place…...the list goes on! By breaking it down into shorter conversations it can keep some of the emotions at bay, while still allowing you to get the information you need. This may take more time, but it will ensure that you get their true wishes, and not just emotional, sudden statements to get it over and done with.

3. Have the conversation about what you want

Talking about your own parting wishes with the wider family can help break down barriers and discomfort about this sensitive topic. Even if you are not sure about what your wishes really are, seeking the opinions and thoughts of friends and family about your options can promote conversation and remove some of the stigma associated with the topic.

4. Talk with them, not at them

It is important when engaging in conversations about a person’s passing or their Will, that you be mindful of their emotions. Encourage a genuine conversation but avoid talking at them and making decisions on their behalf, which can come across as insensitive or self-interested.

5. Be patient

It can take many attempts to get the conversation going, but as long as you genuinely have their interests at heart and are respectful of their emotions or concerns, don’t give up! Having their affairs in order will likely bring them both gratitude and more peace to focus on the enjoyment of the time they have left - no matter how long or short.

Wills & Estates offers no cost, no obligation initial appointments so that you can start the conversation with your family. We offer fixed fees and payment plans – your wishes, your way.

Don't wait until it's too late, contact us today!

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(1) The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling NATSEM, Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia 2016-2056 (2016) (2) Dementia Australia, Younger Onset Dementia in Australia, Prevalence Estimates 2020-2058, (April 2019)