BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Once upon a time, arguments with your parents were about how late you could stay up or why you wanted to wear that to school. As parents age, roles can reverse, though, and it's the kids who may be forced into the role of responsible realist.
Longer lives have meant added problems for those dubbed the "Sandwich Generation," baby boomers approaching retirement with responsibilities for their children as well as parents -- financial or otherwise -- resting squarely on their shoulders. Keeping tabs on aging parents can be a source of conflict.
With age, even the sharpest mind can dull and confusion can have disastrous effect on finances. Bills might go unpaid and needless items bought, and parents can become generally an easy mark for those looking to grab at their cash.
Perhaps the most emotional topic, and one likely to cause strife, is how to tell a parent living on post-retirement fixed income that they are no longer capable of managing their own money or that it is no longer safe for them to live on their own.Recent research by Home Instead Senior Care, a network of professional in-home care providers, interviewed 1,500 U.S. and Canadian adult children of aging parents, asking them about their relationships with their parents, and how they handle discussing sensitive topics with these older adults. Among its findings: "Nearly one-third of adults in the U.S. have a major communication obstacle with their parents that stems from continuation of the parent-child role. The fact that many of these families still operate according to a parent-child model rather than a peer-to-peer one makes these conversations particularly difficult."
Among the advice offered in that study is: "Forget the baby talk."
"Remember you are talking to an adult, not a child," it suggests. "Patronizing speech will put older adults on the defensive and convey a lack of respect for them. Put yourself in your parents' shoes and think of how you would want to be addressed in the situation."
Complicating these discussions can be the onset of dementia or Alzheimer's disease, which can warp the intent of even the most well-meaning interventions. Aging parents, in turmoil over the recognition of their own mortality and loss of control, may even lash out at those trying to protect their money as only wanting to preserve a bigger inheritance.
More than 7.3 million older Americans -- one out of every five people over the age of 65 -- have been victimized by a financial swindle, according to Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education.