Talking to your parents about their future living arrangements is difficult. I’ve been there. Trust me.

A new study from AARP, who knows a thing or two about dealing with older people, sheds some light on the challenge.

It’s easy for me to say this, but…it’s good to plan ahead and have these conversations before your parent becomes sick, or infirm, or both.

According to AARP’s report, Are Americans Talking with Their Parents About Independent Living: A 2007 Study Among Boomer Women, most women 45 and over have had this talk with parents, but most have not made plans ahead of time. (Note: AARP interviewed only women over 45 years of age in October 2007 for this survey)

A big assumption is that two-thirds of women feel that their parents would be able to pay for long term care or assisted living arrangements.

That’s a major assumption and something to explore as soon as possible.
Senior living expenses can run up to a small fortune (or more). I know whereof I speak: both my mother-in-law and my father had substantial expenses for senior living and health issues.

A plurality of women talk about their parents moving in with them (brava! to you 43%).

For those brave kids who get the gumption to broach the subject of cleaning out their parents’ attics and basements, take a look at this new book by Harry Rinker, of Collector Inspector fame.

In Sell, Keep, or Toss?, Harry offers sage advice on how to sensitively and sensibly approach a house full of collected “stuff.” Don’t assume grandma’s old teaset is junk (or, conversely, that the so-called antique chair in the living room is a Louis Quinze). Harry tells you how to deal with this emotionally and financially challenging life-passage. I experienced this difficult passage earlier this year with my own Dad; Harry’s book is a helpful primer. It’s really useful to share with your parents in this life to educate them in the process of begin to divest their worldly goods (if they’re so inclined).

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Talking to parents is good, friends, but taking action is even better. The sooner you engage in this dialogue with your parents, the sooner you will have transparency, a plan and fewer surprises (especially financial ones). Pay now, or pay more later — emotionally and financially!