Helping Families Navigate the Financial Challenges of Age Transitions

Category: Family Relationships (Page 1 of 5)

When It’s Time for Dad (or Mom) to Give Up Driving

If our parents live long enough, there will be many conversations we’ll need to have with them that may make us very uncomfortable. One conversation that we all dread is discussing the possibility of our parent giving up driving. This sensitive topic can be challenging to broach, but it’s a crucial one for the safety and well-being of both our parent and others on the road. In this post, we’ll explore the reasons behind this necessary conversation, provide strategies for discussing it with your parent, and touch on the issue of liability exposure in certain situations.

Why Is This Conversation Necessary?

First and foremost, safety is the primary concern when it comes to aging parents and driving. As your parent gets older, their physical and cognitive abilities may decline, which can make them more susceptible to accidents. Slower reaction times, decreased vision, and other age-related changes can put them and others at risk on the road. According to the CDC, drivers aged 75 and older have the highest death toll in car accidents, primarily attributed to age-related factors such as diminished vision, cognitive decline, and physical changes. Furthermore, the death rate per thousand crashes is notably higher among drivers aged 70 and above when compared to middle-aged drivers, who fall in the 35-54 age range.

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Navigating Family Dynamics: A Compassionate Guide for Caregiving Together

The journey of caregiving is often a complex, emotional, and deeply rewarding experience. As we reach a certain stage in life, the roles begin to shift, and we find ourselves faced with the responsibilities of caring for our aging loved ones. This transitional phase, though born out of love and concern, can also lead to tensions and challenges, especially when navigating the intricate web of family dynamics. For those in the caregiving age demographic, finding ways to work together harmoniously as a family becomes paramount in ensuring that our caregiving efforts are rooted in respect, empathy, and collaboration.

Tip 1: Foster Open Communication

Communication is the cornerstone of any successful endeavor, and caregiving is no exception. Initiate open dialogues where family members can express their thoughts, concerns, and wishes. Encourage active listening, allowing each voice to be heard, and validate emotions. As Dr. Maya Angelou once wisely said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Tip 2: Embrace Each Other's Strengths

Every family member brings unique strengths and abilities to the caregiving journey. Embrace these strengths and divide tasks accordingly. By recognizing and valuing each person’s contribution, you create an atmosphere of shared purpose and cooperation.

Tip 3: Seek Professional Guidance

Sometimes, external advice can ease the strain of family dynamics. Engage a professional mediator, counselor, or geriatric care manager to provide a neutral perspective and guide your discussions. Their expertise can offer insights that help in making difficult decisions while preserving family bonds.

Tip 4: Establish Boundaries with Respect

Caregiving often involves intimate aspects of an individual’s life. Set clear boundaries and respect each other’s personal space and autonomy. Dr. Jane Nelsen reminds us, “Respect is a two-way street; if you want to get it, you’ve got to give it.”

Tip 5: Maintain Flexibility

The caregiving journey is filled with unexpected twists and turns. Flexibility is key in adapting to changing circumstances. Remember that everyone is doing their best, and sometimes, the ability to adapt gracefully is the most valuable skill of all.

Tip 6: Celebrate Small Victories

Amid the challenges, don’t forget to celebrate the small victories. Whether it’s a successful medical appointment or a cherished moment shared, acknowledging these moments can uplift spirits and foster a positive atmosphere.

Tip 7: Preserve Family Traditions

As caregiving becomes a central focus, it’s essential to preserve and cherish family traditions. Engaging in shared activities and celebrating milestones can help maintain a sense of continuity and connection.

Research conducted by the National Institute on Aging underscores the importance of a united family front in caregiving, noting that strong family support positively impacts both the caregiver’s well-being and the care recipient’s overall quality of life. Dr. John Gottman, renowned for his work on relationships, emphasizes the significance of emotional bids and responding positively to them. This principle can be applied to caregiving, where acknowledging and reciprocating efforts can strengthen familial bonds.

In the realm of caregiving, family dynamics are an integral part of the equation. By fostering open communication, embracing each other’s strengths, seeking professional guidance, establishing respectful boundaries, maintaining flexibility, celebrating small victories, and preserving family traditions, families can navigate this challenging yet meaningful path with grace, compassion, and togetherness. As we embark on this journey, let us remember that by supporting one another, we create a legacy of care, respect, and love that will continue to resonate through generations.

Negotiation Techniques for Adult Children of Aging Parents

In an insightful article published on KFFhealthnews.org by Judith Graham, titled “Negotiate with Resistant Aging Parents: Applying Business Strategies,” researchers at Northwestern University explore the application of negotiation and dispute resolution techniques from the business world to defuse conflicts arising from caregiving and financial decisions involving elderly parents. As we strive to provide the best care for our aging loved ones, this article sheds light on strategies to navigate complex situations while respecting their autonomy and dignity. The article delves into a training curriculum designed to help professionals and family caregivers approach caregiving as a collaborative effort and offers valuable insights for fostering productive conversations.

Reaching an impasse with aging parents in their late 80s who resist the idea of receiving home assistance can be frustrating. Negotiation and dispute resolution techniques commonly employed in the business world have shown potential for resolving such conflicts, according to a group of researchers at Northwestern University.

The team has developed a specialized training program focused on negotiation and dispute resolution. Aimed at social workers, care managers, and healthcare professionals working with resistant older adults, this curriculum encourages professionals to engage in collaborative caregiving approaches that honor the individual’s preferences, rather than imposing decisions.

Lee Lindquist, the chief of geriatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who leads this initiative, highlighted the prevalence of conflicts among older individuals and emphasized the program’s goal to de-escalate such situations, ensuring older adults receive the necessary support while maintaining their dignity.

A significant component of this project is the development of a computer-based training program for family caregivers dealing with mild cognitive impairment or early-stage dementia in their loved ones. Dubbed “NegotiAge,” this program employs avatars of older adults to simulate negotiation scenarios. Through practice, caregivers can refine their negotiation skills and techniques.

This project, funded by the National Institutes of Health with nearly $4 million, strives to make NegotiAge widely accessible after evaluating its effectiveness.

For family caregivers seeking to navigate conflicts with aging parents, the article outlines several proactive steps:

1. Prepare: Before entering negotiations, thorough preparation is vital. Jeanne Brett, a member of the NegotiAge team, suggests addressing fundamental questions, identifying issues, involved parties, their positions, motivations, and potential consequences if an agreement is not reached. Document your goals for the upcoming conversations.

2. Identify Common Interests: Finding common ground among the parties involved is key. Emphasize shared goals and interests, such as maintaining the older adult’s independence, safety, and social connections.

3. Ask Questions: Avoid making assumptions about the reasons behind a parent’s stance. Engage in open-ended discussions to understand their perspective. Show empathy and genuine concern.

4. Brainstorm Strategies: Emotions can run high during negotiations, particularly within family dynamics. Shift focus from conflicts to collaborative problem-solving. Encourage creative thinking and explore multiple potential solutions.

5. Third-Party Involvement: If resolution remains elusive, consider involving a neutral third party, like a mediator or healthcare professional. External input can provide a fresh perspective and facilitate productive discussions.

Applying these strategies can lead to more effective communication, allowing families to navigate challenging decisions while preserving relationships and respecting the autonomy and dignity of aging parents. As the Northwestern University research advances, caregivers and professionals alike stand to benefit from enhanced tools and approaches to address the complexities of eldercare.

To read the full article by Judith Graham on KFFhealthnews.org, visit: Negotiate with Resistant Aging Parents: Applying Business Strategies.

How to Have Difficult Conversations About Senior Living Options

As our parents age, there may come a time when we need to have challenging conversations about their future living arrangements. The topic of senior living options can be sensitive and emotional, but it’s essential to address it with empathy, understanding, and respect. In this guide, we’ll provide insights and strategies on how to approach these conversations effectively, ensuring that your loved ones’ wishes and needs are considered.

1. Choose the Right Time and Place: Initiating a conversation about senior living options requires careful consideration of timing and environment. Choose a comfortable and private setting, and make sure there are no distractions. Avoid discussing this topic during busy family gatherings or when emotions are running high. Opt for a time when everyone is relaxed and open to discussing the matter calmly.

2. Listen with Empathy: Approaching the conversation with empathy and active listening is crucial. Your parents may have a range of emotions and concerns about the idea of transitioning to senior living. Take the time to listen to their thoughts, fears, and desires. Acknowledge their feelings and validate their experiences to create a supportive atmosphere where they feel heard and understood.

3. Focus on Their Needs and Preferences: Every individual has unique needs and preferences when it comes to senior living arrangements. Some may prefer to stay in their homes with in-home care, while others might feel more comfortable in a retirement community or assisted living facility. Respect their autonomy and choices, and involve them in the decision-making process. Be open to exploring different options together, considering factors like proximity to family, medical care, and social activities.

4. Address Safety and Care Concerns: Safety and care are paramount considerations when discussing senior living options. Express your concern for their well-being and highlight how certain living arrangements can enhance their safety and provide access to essential support services. Share information about the benefits of professional caregivers and the sense of community they can experience in senior living communities.

5. Involve Other Family Members: If possible, involve other family members in the conversation to show a united front and demonstrate a shared commitment to your parents’ best interests. Discussing senior living options as a family can provide a broader perspective and may alleviate any feelings of isolation or pressure on your parents.

6. Provide Information and Support: Share educational resources and information about different senior living options to help your parents make informed decisions. Provide brochures, online resources, or arrange visits to local retirement communities or assisted living facilities. Offering emotional support throughout the decision-making process can help alleviate anxiety and stress.

Discussing senior living options with aging parents can be challenging, but it’s essential to approach these conversations with compassion, active listening, and respect for their autonomy. By choosing the right time and place, focusing on their needs and preferences, and involving other family members, we can navigate this sensitive topic together, ensuring our loved ones receive the care and support they deserve in their later years.

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Article on the Importance of Human Connection

A recent study by Harvard Medical School found that older adults who had in-person interactions with friends, family, and healthcare providers during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic experienced fewer mental health problems than those who relied on digital connections. The study suggests that digital technologies may not be suitable for the needs of older adults and may cause anxiety and depression. 

Another study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that older adults living with a spouse or partner during the pandemic had fewer functional difficulties and disruptions to their finances or personal assistance than those living alone. 

The studies emphasize the importance of in-person interactions and better technology to meet the needs of older adults. Seniors over 75 were found to require more assistance with daily living. Click here to read the full article.

Indiana Case Highlights Family Tensions in Selecting Financial Caregivers.

Most people should be able to choose a loving and honoring adult child or family member as a financial caregiver. An Indiana case highlights the importance of integrity when making the choice.

In the case of Biggs vs Renner, Terri Renner and Sherry Biggs are siblings locked in a court battle over their mother’s care, with Terri claiming that Sherry abused her position as agent under her mother’s Power of Attorney, and used their mother’s funds for her own benefit. Court records would confirm Terri’s fears.

Sherry admitted to converting her mother’s accounts first to a joint account, and then to accounts only in her name. She offered a promissory note to court as evidence that she intended to pay the money back, but the the note was largely unenforceable due to her mother’s incapacity, and no payments had been made so far. In addition, Sherry allowed her daughter and husband to live rent-free in her mother’s home and paid several thousand dollars of improvements from her mother’s accounts that did not directly benefit her mother.

Terri sought a court’s intervention to remove her sister as attorney-in-fact, and to insert a disinterested third party as guardian of their mother’s estate. The court granted Terri’s petition, but Sherry objected on appeal.


A Power of Attorney is a legal arrangement whereby one person grants authority (let’s call that person the grantor) to another person to act in their behalf as attorney-in-fact, or agent while they (the grantor) are alive but unable to act for themselves. Acting as agent under a power of attorney is a fiduciary responsibility that obligates the financial caregiver to exercise the powers granted solely for the benefit of the grantor. A financial caregiver has to keep accurate records and is prohibited from using the property of the grantor for their own purposes. Being a financial caregiver is an honorable position when conducted honorably.

Why name an adult child as financial caregiver?

It is understandable that an older person would want to name an adult child as financial caregiver on their behalf. We want to believe our own children would act honorably on our behalf, or perhaps we have regrets about our own parenting and feel guilty if we do not atone ourselves by putting them in charge. Sometimes a parent will name an estranged child in hope that the trust shown by the parent will mend a broken relationship. Parents will often do whatever it takes to keep a child close to them. However, the selection of a financial caregiver should place emphasis on the dependability and the integrity of the individual over familial connections. This may require difficult decisions and may even alienate family members, but if early and intentional discussions on the subject can be held with the appropriate family members, perhaps these kinds of conflicts can be avoided.


Note: The information above is for general information only and should not be relied upon to make legal or financial decisions Advice as to the preparation and use of Powers of Attorney should only be provided by a qualified attorney licensed in your state.

Daughter and partner try to force the sale of parent’s home.

A Massachusetts case illustrates the care that must be exercised when giving property interests to others and how those interests are titled. Donald and Suzanne Bragdon owned their home as Tenants by Entirety, a form of holding title available only to married individuals. They subsequently conveyed one-half of their home to their daughter, Laurie Durken, and her partner, Terrence McCarthy as co-joint tenants between all four of them, but also retained a life estate in the property. A retained life estate divides property ownership into two parts – one part for the living owner, and one part for the residual owner that only vests after the living owner’s death.

So, we have three forms of holding title going on here – a tenancy by entirety for half the house between Donald and Suzanne, a joint tenancy between all four individuals for the other half of the house, and a retained life estate in the entire property by Donald and Suzanne. Whether or not this was intentional planning I do not know, but it’s a recipe for disaster and it nearly occurred for Donald and Suzanne but for the protection against forced division that their various titling gave them.

Sadly, Laurie and Terrence sought to partition the property – essentially force the sale of it presumably because they needed the money. As you would expect, Donald and Suzanne objected to this idea of forcibly selling their home, and ultimately the conflict wound up in court. Laurie and Terrence argued that they owned a “possessory” right in the property regardless of the existence of the retained life estate that gave them the right to partition. Donald and Suzanne said the life estate superseded any right of possession Laurie and Terrence may have until after their deaths.

After examination of the deeds executed between the four, the courts agreed with Donald and Suzanne.

McCarthy and Durkan relinquished their prior possessory undivided one-half interest in the property by voluntarily signing onto the 2013 deed as grantors. Thus, the Bragdons are entitled to the benefit of the presumption that one who signs an instrument has read and understood its contents and has assented to its terms and legal effect. By the 2013 deed, the Bragdons hold a life estate in 100% of the property, and McCarthy and Durkan hold the remainder interest in 100% of the property. As McCarthy and Durkan do not hold any present possessory interest in the property, they are not entitled to partition. Their petition for partition must be dismissed.

Source: MCCARTHY vs. BRAGDON, MISC 20-000118

The lesson here is to seek competent legal advice when it comes to gifting property interests to 3rd parties and forms of holding title. A knowledgeable attorney will not only understand the operation of title law but can also give guidance and warnings about these kinds of what-if scenarios. In this case, an ounce of prevention would have been worth more than the pound of cure.

Adopt a Code of Honor when caring for an aging loved one.

I am fortunate that both my mom (93) and mother-in-law (86) are still living and doing quite well. As I have visited with them and their close friends, there is a tremendous amount of wit and wisdom to glean from these encounters. Unfortunately, one of the things I have also witnessed in our culture is a loss or lack of honor towards those who have lived more years than most. I would like to challenge myself and the reader to make a resolution for 2022 to honor our older citizens – especially our parents. What does it mean to honor an older person? Often hearing a familiar principle from a different cultural context can clarify its meaning. In recent years, I’ve attempted to learn more about the ancient philosophies of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. These belief systems share many core principles with the Judeo-Christian ethics and scriptures that are more familiar to us Westerners than these less represented traditions.

Take the concept of Filial Piety, one of the eight virtues of Confucianism. Scholars attribute the Eight Virtues to a line in the Sage Emperor Guan’s Book of Enlightenment, saying

“It is through Filial Piety, Sibling Harmony, Dedication, Trustworthiness, Propriety, Sacrifice, Honor, and Sense of Shame that we become fully human.” 

Filial Piety means to be good to one’s parents; to take care of one’s parents; to engage in good conduct not just towards parents but also outside the home so as to bring a good name to one’s parents and ancestors. The Fung Loy Kok Institute of Taoism further expounds on the concept of filial piety by stating,

You should also attend to your parents’ well-being. There are three basic needs you must provide for your parents. First, you should provide for their food and clothing. Second, when they are ill, you must take responsibility for nursing them back to health. Third, when they die, you must provide them with proper burial and care for their graves. As a son or daughter, whether you are rich or poor, whatever profession you are engaged in, whether you are married or not, whether you have children or not, if you can perform these three deeds with sincerity and dedication, your parents will be happy while they are alive and rest in peace when they are deceased. Your parents cared for you without selfish interests. Your mother carried you in her womb for ten lunar months and nursed you for three years. Your parents constantly tended to your needs while you were growing up. You should show your gratitude to them by fulfilling the virtue of filial piety.

For we Westerners, the concept of Filial Piety is rooted in both the Old and New Testament scriptures. Exodus 20:12 commands,

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (New International Version). Ephesians 6:2-3 repeats the same command and adds parenthetically “which is the only command with a promise.”

When parents age to the point where they lose independence or capacity to perform certain functions of daily living, families should adopt and adhere to a personal code of honor that maintains the dignity that the older person deserves. In a curriculum developed to teach adult children how to be effective financial caregivers, I provide a model code of honor that is available for download here.

Social Isolation Affects Heart Health, Cognition

Two new studies show the effects that social isolation and loneliness can have on cardiovascular health and cognitive decline.

The two studies provided several compelling links between social engagement and mental or physiological health. Some of the findings include:

  • Social isolation and loneliness are common but are under-recognized as contributing to cardiovascular and brain health.
  • The lack of social connection is associated with an increased risk of premature death from all causes, especially among men.
  • People who experience social isolation or loneliness are more likely to experience chronic stress and depression. Depression can also lead to social isolation.

Source: Social Isolation Affects Heart Health, Cognition

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