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Thursday, September 12, 2024

How to Talk to your Parents About Their End of Life Plans

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For many people, discussing end of life plans can be uncomfortable and even scary. However, adopting a sense of openness today creates certainty and ensures that when the time comes, you can take the proper steps to carry out the intent and wishes of your loved ones.

These conversations should encompass the preparation of advance directives including a living will, as well as estate planning and any other concerns specific to your family. Advance directives also ensure that the person facing the end of their life will not have to experience medical treatments they do not want.

While legal documents can be daunting, and considering the end of life can be upsetting for both parents and children, remember this planning is also a way to care for each other, and having these documents in place can give everyone involved peace of mind. Barring a current, ongoing health crisis, you may find it easier to address these aspects of end of life planning one at a time. The Illinois State Medical Society offers free resources that can help you determine the necessary issues to address and documents to complete.

In addition to discussions about legal documents, ask your parents about their concerns.

Discuss their feelings about the distribution of family heirlooms and share with your parents how much it means to you to know their end-of-life wishes and your willingness to carry them out on their behalf. If you can support your parents through this process now, all of you will be able to rely on that framework later.

Also, take this time to address issues specific to your family. If one or both of your parents are providing care to their spouse, discuss ongoing plans in the case they should no longer be able to carry out caregiving responsibilities. Talk about the religious rituals your parents would like observed, if any, leading to and after their death.

For you, as the child, advance planning will lessen the burden of needing to make decisions without knowing what your parent would want. It can also lessen conflict among family members at an emotionally difficult time.

End-of-life care is a deeply personal subject. Be prepared to address upsetting topics and even find yourself in conflict with your parents on some issues. But if you and your parents can find the courage to plan for the end of life now, you will appreciate having those plans to support you when the time comes.

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