Responding to negative reactions during conversations about finances

Sometimes discussions about finances can bring up strong emotions.

Older adults might be intimidated by financial professionals, confused by Medicaid or Medicare, or embarrassed to admit they've been a victim of fraud or other financial exploitation. Well-meaning questions might sound like you're prying or questioning older adults' abilities.

During difficult discussions, do your best to calmly and clearly share your thoughts, using phrases like, "I am concerned" or "My feelings are." Focus on what you can agree on and how you can work together on financial tasks.

Listen carefully to what the older adult says. Remember that what you're talking about probably affects the older adult's life more than yours.

You and the older adult might have different ways of speaking or thinking about finances.

Financial discussions can be difficult when:

  • You disagree about whether there is a financial problem, or what the problem is.

  • You disagree about what's most important. For example, you might want to plan for possible long-term care needs, while the older adult is focused on today's bills.

  • You disagree about what's a good solution.

  • You use or hear words differently, so that you say and mean X, but the older adult hears Y.

  • You have different communication or decision-making styles.

  • You want different people to be involved when you discuss finances, or have different interpretations of what financial or legal professionals said.

  • How you respond to each other is shaped by family patterns or social roles.

If the older adult has a negative reaction, it can help to ask why. Try to understand the older adult's point of view. Focus on the older adult's wishes and goals.

If the older adult doesn't want to discuss it, don't push. You might need to agree to disagree on some things.

It's usually better to drop the subject and discuss it again later. If you understand why the last conversation was difficult, you might be able to find a different way to approach the topic next time.