WTOP Interview: Aging Parents, Aging Us: How To Prepare for the Next Phase in Life Part I

Read The Article: Aging Parents Aging Us: Helping Parents As They Age


SHAWN ANDERSON: Aging is not a topic many of us are comfortable with, but preparing for the next stage in life can ease fears for both parents and you the adult child.

HILLARY HOWARD: In the first of a two-part series ”aging parents, aging us”, Dawn Doebler Senior Wealth Advisor of Bridgewater Wealth in Bethesda and cofounder of Her Wealth, joins us to help us all handle this really delicate and important topic. Dawn, great to see you!

DAWN DOEBLER: Yes, thanks for having me back.

HILLARY HOWARD: This really is a huge hot topic for so many people; our parents are living, we’re longer living longer, some of our parents are in their 70s and 80s. What are some of the reasons we need to address this topic with them?

DAWN DOEBLER: Well Hillary, a lot of our clients are affected when their parents’ health decline, they may need to leave the workforce earlier than expected or many times use their own resources to help pay for care, so we think it’s important to have this discussion early and often so that you are prepared. If you don’t have that, what tends to happen is that families get into a health crisis and then they’re being forced to make decisions in that crisis which usually are not optimal decisions. Also, if you don’t know your parents’ wishes, then there might be other people making decisions that wouldn’t be in line with what your parents would want. We’ve talked about this, there’s an increase in gray divorce and the results of that as many parents are single and old age and that means there’s a greater incidence of adult children having to take care of their parents because they are single, the parents don’t have a spouse there to either take care of them or to make decisions.

SHAWN ANDERSON: We know these conversations are vital, but having that conversation with one or both parents, that can really be tough. Are there things you can do to open that discussion up?

DAWN DOEBLER: Well, yes Sean. As you said, it can be a difficult conversation and I really would encourage your listeners to read the article, there are lots of information in there, but one thing we wanted to say is, there’s kind of role reversal that begins to happen at this stage of life and that can take time for people to get used to, so this really is a process. It’s not usually a one-time conversation and one of the best things you can do is to be careful about the way you open the conversation with your parents. A lot of families, money talk is taboo and if that’s the case in your family you need to be aware of that and I’ll consider that when you’re talking to the parents. And then also we would suggest that you consider the dynamics of aging, many parents feel they are losing control and to kind of balance that they often try to become more secretive about their money. We also have a lot of wealthy parents express to us or are concerned about revealing their level of wealth; they think that might cause their children to not be motivated to continue to create wealth. So it’s really about considering what your parents might be going through, having a series of conversations, it’s not a one and done and realize that it’s really a process to get the conversation going.

HILLARY HOWARD: What happens when your folks are completely resistant to this idea at all?

DAWN DOEBLER: Well, Hillary that certainly is the case with many people, so we have some suggestions:

·      First of all, you can ask is there anyone mom and dad that you had this conversation with who we could contact if something happen.

·      You could ask them simply, do you have a long-term care policy and where is it located in case we need to access that. We have a great book with us today, it is called the ”other talk” written by Tim Prosch and it’s really great to explain to parents why it’s important to have the conversation early, so it’s not happening in crisis, but instead people are planning for this.

·      And one big suggestion if there are disagreements that occur in families which often is the case; find the help of a financial advisor and aging-like professional or hire a good eldercare attorney.