Talking about the future can be hard. It can evoke anxiety in even the most calm of us when we start to think about all the unknowns and all the things that might happen. These discussions can get even harder when it’s not our future we’re talking about, but rather someone else’s. However difficult it may be, there are some questions that we need to have answers to when it comes to our aging parents and it is wise to have these conversations sooner rather than later. In this vein, here are 7 questions that you should talk to your aging parents about as soon as you can.
1. How do you feel about getting older or losing your independence?
A parent can have all the legal stuff taken care of, but that doesn’t tell you how they feel. To really understand your aging parents, it’s important to talk about how they feel about the situations that might happen. Allow them to talk about their fears, their wishes, how they envision things unfolding in the event of a medical situation, and so on. This is the type of conversation that will tell you if they have made decisions based on what they think will be easiest for others or what they really want. This is the type of conversation that will allow you to make sure that the legal documents accurately represent your loved one’s wishes. Most importantly, it is the type of conversation that will allow your aging parent to know how much you support and love them and want what is best for them.
2. Do you have a will? Is it up-to-date?
Bringing up a will can seem like you only care about what you’re getting, but a will contains so much more than just ‘who gets what’ and is essential to the process of handling matters when a loved one passes. This is your parent’s opportunity to dictate how they would like their affairs to be handled and who they want to handle things. It is equally important for our parents to ensure their will is up-to-date so that loved ones don’t end up in bureaucratic hell trying to simply execute the wishes of a loved one while simultaneously trying to mourn. Importantly, the same questions pertain to life insurance which is separate from a will and requires the beneficiaries to be named to the life insurance company directly.
3. Do you have a living will?
Although many people plan for their deaths, many forget to also plan for any situation that might render them incapable of making their own decisions while still living. Your parent may assume that the “right” decision will be made for them by those in charge, but this is not always how it plays out. Taking the time to decide what they want and making sure those wishes are legally noted is the only way to ensure your parents will be cared for in that way.
4. Do you have a Power of Attorney?
This can be one of the trickier topics to discuss if there are multiple children or individuals who might expect to be “chosen”. Parents sometimes put this off because they simply don’t want to be seen as picking favourites, but it’s an essential document to have. For this reason it is important that children (and any other interested individual) are respectful of whatever decision the elder makes. No offense should be noted to the parent and if there are concerns about a selection, it would be wise to make sure all parties are involved in discussing this instead of trying to quietly bring it up to the parent. By involving everyone, the right decision for your aging parent can be made.
5. Do you have long-term care insurance?
Not all people have invested in long-term care insurance and with the costs of long-term care, this is something your parents may want to consider if it’s not too late to invest. If they have invested, being aware of what is covered, who to contact to initiate the insurance claim, and what services your parent will want to take advantage of is important to know ahead of time and can save money and hassles if/when the time comes.
6. What kind of care situation do you want?
Does your parent have a retirement or assisted living home in mind? Do they want to stay at home as long as possible, focusing on in-home care? What nursing homes are they comfortable with if the situation were to become necessary? Having these discussions before a decision needs to be made ensures that people can look for the right care, make any needed arrangements, and not scramble at the last minute and have to take whatever is available.
7. What are your wishes for a funeral/memorial?
Sometimes there is a lot of pressure to do things in a “traditional” way when it comes to how we remember our loved ones, but that’s not always what they want. Although funerals/memorials need to reflect both the person that is gone and those who are left behind, having a discussion ahead of time can mean that all sides get their voices heard. When a decision is reached beforehand, our loved ones know their wishes will be respected and those of us left behind can know we’re memorializing our parents in a way that they accept as well. This means no guilt for anyone and that’s a much-needed relief at a time of sorrow.
However hard it may be, please take the time to talk to your loved ones about these issues. It’s also not too late to start thinking about them for yourself as well. The more prepared we are, the easier it is for those around us and the more open we are, the more likely we are to respect everyone’s wishes and know that ours will be respected too.