Having the Aging Talk with Your Parents
Having a conversation about your parent's end-of-life choices can be intimidating, but there are several steps you can take to ensure the dialogue happens in an effective and collaborative way.
A Good Time and Place
It is best to plan the conversation to happen in a comfortable and quiet place such as your home or theirs. Make sure all siblings are present to alleviate miscommunication or disagreements later on. And be sure to allow for enough time to meet. While the conversation may take a few hours, dragging it on too long, especially if everyone doesn't see eye-to-eye, can lead to fatigue and unfavorable results. Taking a break or deciding to meet at another time can let everyone collect their thoughts and come back to the table with more thoughtful solutions.
It is important to remember that your ideas for your parent's care and living arrangements may be different than theirs and that the goal of the conversation is to determine the right type of care for your parents that respect their wishes.
The best starting point is to try to step into your parent’s shoes. Understandably, they may have anxieties and concerns about planning for their future care. Be mindful not to minimize those feelings. It’s important to recognize them and continue to ask questions so you can better understand their reservations. Doing so will make it clear that you respect their wishes.
Before the conversation create a list of your concerns, especially if you have observed recent health care challenges, such as difficulties with the Activities of Daily Living or increased instances of falls or other incidents that may lead to a medical issue.
Bring up the conversation in the context of helping them plan for their care now and into the future. And make it clear this conversation is about their wants, needs and wishes, not about dollar amounts or inheritances.
Do Your Research
Learn about the important documents that need to be in place before long-term care issues arise. These include a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will and a Last Will and Testament.
Some specific topics to discuss include; how to pay for any help that they may need in the future, what residential options they would consider if their health declined and they could no longer reside in their home,
who they wish to act as their health care advocate, who they would like to act as their financial agent, and what their end-of-life wishes are.
Although speaking about these issues may seem uncomfortable, it will help to ensure your parent's wishes are met and will also provide you with the peace of mind that you are carrying out their wishes rather than having to make important decisions on your own in a crisis situation.
Keep the Conversation Going
Be prepared to have multiple discussions. Make a point to continue the conversation as it evolves over time. The most successful families have periodic meetings on a yearly basis, often with the parents' elder law attorney present, as this helps everyone stay on task and set long-term goals together as a team.
It is certainly easier, less stressful and less expensive to have these conversations while you are in good health rather than during a crisis.
Unfortunately, many families postpone this conversation for too long. An accident or medical emergency can suddenly put families into a frantic care situation with little to no options to safeguard assets and get the care their parents may have hoped for.
To find out more about setting up an estate plan, protecting assets and our signature Life Care Plan legal service which combines Asset Protection, Medicaid and Care Advocacy, and offers a holistic approach that helps families with every aspect of caring for someone with long term care needs, contact Tully Law Group at 631-424-2800 to set up a free consultation.