At some point, whether you like it or not, you will have to take charge of your parent’s care. There are more than a dozen scenarios regarding how their final years will unfold, but regardless of the situation, you will be responsible for handling their health care as well as funeral arrangements. It’s uncomfortable, and the vast majority of us do everything we can to avoid even thinking about it. However, all that avoidance is actually hurting your parents. Waiting for a crisis to create the need for the conversation is being reactive instead of proactive – which often leaves both of you feeling forced to embrace the drastic change versus being intelligently and lovingly prepared for a drastic change.
The key to a successful conversation is ensuring that each party recognizes the other’s primary needs. Think long and hard about multiple scenarios and what might or might not work for you and your family. Open up the floor for discussion on topics such as driving, assisted living, nursing facilities, in-home care, medical emergencies, finances, a living will, an estate plan, and funeral arrangements.
Your parents need to be reassured that they can maintain control and have a say over what happens to them – regardless of the situation. They also need to know and trust that you are their best advocate and will carry out their wishes no matter how difficult it might be for you. However hard these issues are to discuss, recognize this as an opportunity to design a plan throughout the aging years that works for everyone now – instead of navigating in the midst of the heightened emotions in a crisis.
Some Questions to Ponder
- How would you and your family feel if one of your parents had to live with you?
- Would you have the extra space, and would the stairs pose a problem? How could you make it work?
- How would he/she feel about having a part time nurse to help with the caregiving?
- How would your parents want to be approached when you feel they should no longer drive?
- Are your parents interested in assisted living or a nursing facility when the time comes?
- How would your parents like to navigate downsizing?
- Do they have an estate plan, will, and living will?
- What kind of health insurance do your parents have?
- At what point would they want you to handle paying their bills?
- Where do they keep all of their financial information, and how would you access it in an emergency?
Make sure you express your need for peace of mind for all those major steps along the way. The huge benefit of having the dreaded conversation sooner rather than later is that, in the event of a medical crisis, the family can act fast to care for their loved ones with the approach that has been agreed upon.
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