The roles are reversed when parents age. You can’t count on them to take the lead in having discussions about money, health, aging and other concerns that come in the later years.
When you were a kid, your parents were in charge. Now your parents are older, and you must be the adult in the room. Embracing that role, with thoughtfulness, will make it easier for you and your parents as you address the issues that come with aging. As recommended in the article “How to Have Difficult Conversations With Your Aging Parents” from Next Avenue, having these conversations will help you all avoid some of the uncertainty and stress in the future.
Here are the conversations you need to have:
The Money Talk. What’s their financial situation? Do they have enough to pay their bills right now? What if they live another ten or twenty years? Do they have a will? Do you know where the will is, and the name of the estate planning attorney who created it? Do they have powers of attorney for finances in place?
The Health Talk. Medical issues that you’ve heard about but aren’t fully informed about need to be clarified. What medications do they take, and is there a list posted on the refrigerator, or located somewhere you can get to it, in the event of an emergency? Have they properly documented a power of attorney for healthcare?
The Aging Talk. Do they plan on aging at home, or are they considering moving to a continuing care facility? What senior living options should they consider, if and when they can’t live on their own anymore?
The End of Life Talk. This is the hardest one, but it is hard for everyone. If they should have a terminal illness, what do they want to happen? Do they have a medical directive, or a living will? How do they feel about extreme measures being taken to sustain life, if they are incapacitated?
The Family Legacy Talk. This is a warmer, happier conversation. What do they want the family to remember about them, and how can you work together to assemble the things that will help accomplish this? Are there family recipes, photo books, treasured heirlooms, videos or jewelry they want to pass along? Are there stories they want to share?
Note that these are not one-time conversations, but processes. Everyone will respond differently, and some parents may need more time to reflect and consider their answers than others. Your parents will need to be ready to have these conversations with you. Some conversations may touch on a raw memory and have to stop, to resume at a later point.
Depending on your parents’ personalities, you may want to speak with them together, if they are both living, or individually. One might be more comfortable discussing certain matters without the other present.
Take notes of the conversation. You’ll be able to review the notes with them if need be and share that information with siblings and family members. You can also see what’s left out. Your notes are not a legally binding document, but they can help when their wills are created or revised.
Estate planning attorneys work with families and aging issues on a regular basis and will be able to discuss these matters with your parents and with you. They’ll know about issues you may not even be aware of. If possible, go with your parents to meet with their estate planning attorney, so that everyone is on the same page.
Reference: Next Avenue (September 21, 2018) “How to Have Difficult Conversations With Your Aging Parents”