Many people ask me when they should start talking with their aging loved ones about what they want for the future – where they want to live, what they want their prized possessions to go – that sort of thing. I\’ve heard people say the general rule of thumb is “40/60”. In other words, when you turn 40 and/or when your loved one turns 60. I personally don\’t agree. I say no matter how old you are or how old your loved one is, start now!

A while back I asked you “How do you define “family fortune”?” I pointed out that most people say money when, in fact, that\’s not the only thing you\’re “rich” in. “Family fortune” can mean anything from collections such as spoons and stamps to photographs, written material (bible, poems, diaries, letters), documents or records (marriage certificates, awards, military discharge papers), handmade items (quilts, needlework), antiques/art, jewelry, even every day items like kitchen utensils. “Family fortune” can also mean family relationships, family history/memories/traditions, the family reputation/privacy (family “secrets”) – even the knowledge & experience you want to share with your kids.

When families get caught up in eldercare (and current events) we often forget we all have other fortunes that are non-financial and important to us. Worse yet, when we forget our other “family fortunes”, we run the risk of losing them. How sad it would be to lose any of the things we value because we don\’t realize how important they are to us as we focus on eldercare responsibilities. Saving the family fortune – no matter how you define it takes time. Start now because even in a crisis, things don\’t happen over night.

Start now while there are no consequences. It\’s much easier to discuss health issues while everyone is still healthy. It\’s easier to discuss where they might want to live before the moving van arrives.

Start now while everyone is still alive. There were so many questions I wanted to ask my father about his family. Sadly he died in 1992. He was an only child so with him went those golden stories.

Start now while they can still remember. My mother has very advanced dementia. I would love to hear more stories about her family but it didn\’t occur to me to ask until she could no longer remember. She\’s also an only child.

Start now so you can enjoy the process – and in the process, strengthen and deepen the relationship and make the most of the remaining time you have together.

And finally, by starting your conversations now, you have time to do a little at a time so it\’s not so overwhelming. Hearing the family stories, researching the family history, sorting out all the prized possessions, etc. should be a joyfully shared experience – not a chore. If you start now it can be a wonderful and life fulfilling experience for the whole family.

© Copyright AgeWiseLiving™ 2009 You can find information about how to talk with your aging loved ones in “The Ultimate Caregiver\’s Survival Guide”, the step by step blueprint to resolving your eldercare issues by choice, not crisis by going to www.AgeWiseLiving.com. While there, sign up for Barbara\’s free monthly newsletter. You can also contact Barbara by calling toll-free (877) AGE-WISE. Barbara E. Friesner is the country\’s leading Generational Coach and expert on issues affecting seniors and their families. She is an adjunct professor at Cornell University and host of Age Wise Living radio show on VoiceAmerica.com.

Barbara Friesner is the country's leading Generational Coach and an expert on issues affecting Seniors and their families. She has been interviewed for Advising Boomers magazine, featured on NY1 TV's Focus on Seniors and Coping with Caregiving on wsRadio. She has also been quoted in newspapers and magazines across the country and her articles have been published in the CAPSule, the Children of Aging Parent's newsletter.