Just do it – Having the talk with your parents about their wishes during aging

Hopefully, many of you still have your parents living. One of the biggest gifts you can give them is to make sure you will be able to take care of them in the event they can’t take care of themselves. This can be a very hard thing to do.

Most people do not want to face the fact that we all do not live forever. Aging is something we all do but when it is our parents it is especially hard to face. They are supposed to live forever, right? Each family is different so you might be able to skip over a lot of this. Or you may have to add many steps. You just have to tailor this to your situation.

Let me share with you why I feel this is an important one, even though my parents are both gone. I have a friend who is going through a hard time as her parent has consistently refused to let her do anything that might help with this. She has tried over the years and now that her parent is having problems, she is powerless to help without getting the legal system involved. Although she does not want to have to do this, she has to for the safety of her parent.

Her parent will not tell her any financial information – “I have taken care of myself all these years and I do not need you to tell me what to do” but her taxes are not being paid on her home. She has no control over her parent’s medical care and needs it badly as her parent is obviously not taking her medication. Her parent will not let her even take her shopping for groceries.

Naturally, this is causing a lot of stress. What is actually concern on her part is being seen as a control issue by the parent. This could be dementia setting in but watching a love one go downhill with no way to step in and help is devastating when it could be avoided.

My mother was one of the people who wanted to make sure that things were taken care of. She also is the one who use to tell me to “get off your duff and do it”. Keep in mind that even though you try to do this, it may not work. But, you will feel better for having tried.

  1. Figure out why you are avoiding it.
    1. I can think of several reasons. First you may not want to accept that you need to do this. After all, we all want our parents to live forever.
    2. You do not want to hurt your parents. This is valid but it might hurt worse to see your parents in a situation where you cannot step in to help.
    3. Your siblings may think you are sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong.
    4. You don’t know where to start.
  2. Break it into small steps.
    1. Accept that this has to happen. I could tell you horror stories of families that do not do this and then their parent’s wishes were not followed.
    2. Think of the way to approach it. If you have a plan, it will be much easier and helpful than just blurting it out one day.
    3. Do some research for your state as to the legal steps needed. This can be as simple as going onto the internet to see what is required. Of course we all know that just because it is on the internet does not mean it is true. Another place to check is with your friends that may be going through the same process.
    4. Talk to your siblings. This is especially important if they do not live close and it will be your responsibility to physically take care of your parent.   Maybe you are the one they talk to about financial matters. Maybe someone else is more into the medical part of their lives.
    5. Work the subject in to the conversations slowly instead of just sitting them down one day and say “we are going to do this”. That approach usually won’t work and may make them just shut down the whole subject.
    6. Work up to the point of discussing each point. Things I would suggest are end of life decisions, power of attorney for both medical and financial transactions, funeral arrangements, will, etc.
    7. Make sure it is done through an attorney. Even though you may know what your parents want, it if it not written down in a legal manner, you may not be able to make it happen.
  3. Get the materials together.
    1. I covered this in step 2 but basically it is researching your state’s laws, discussing with family members, etc. You could also talk to an estate lawyer, read different books or articles on the subject and many other steps but do not let this be a stopping place or a place to get bogged down.
  4. Just do it.
    1. Get off your duff and do it!

 

While you are at it, think about this for yourself. No matter what your age, you should have these legal matters taken care of. I would like to live forever but I won’t. We have this taken care of and my children are well aware of what I want to happen. There will be no fighting about anything as it is all taken care of. This actually gave me peace of mind as I don’t want them to have to guess at what I wanted.

Having the talk – What to do when your parents should no longer stay home alone.

nursign hoFor the sake of these posts, I am going to post as if the person(s) we are talking about are your parents.  Naturally they don’t have to be.  It could be a family friend, other relative, etc.  More specifically, I will be referring to ‘she’ as this is mostly coming through my experience with my mother.

Additionally, I am not a lawyer or doctor so make sure you double check all I talk about here with your legal or medical team.  The laws in my state may be different than in your state.  This is all meant to be a guideline, not a rule.

Talk……sounds simple right.  But, how do you talk to your parents about what is going on in their private lives without sounding like you are interfering?

My mother was always a private person.  We could discuss kids, work, home life, etc. but we really did not talk about what she wanted for the future.  When she started to get older, it became necessary to discuss some very sensitive subjects.  For me, the easiest way was just to ask.  Depending on your family situation, this could be done at a family meeting or just one-on-one.  I would definitely let them know if you are going to discuss this with all family members as your parent might want to be ready.

What did she want done when her health got so she couldn’t stay at home?  Of course, she said this would never happen.  I told her that I would like it if I could move her in with me as long as our health allowed it.  She didn’t say yes or no, just ignored it.  She did say she didn’t ever want to go to an ‘old folk’s home’.  In her mind that was a place that people went to die.  The very word made her think of the sights and smells that use to be in some facilities.  I told her that nursing homes and/or assisted living facilities were much improved from what they were.  She still insisted that she did not ever want to go to one.  I promised her that if it was in my power, she never would go to one.

Where she wanted to be buried at?  This was easy as my father was buried in a double plot that already had a headstone on but I live in a different state so I wanted to make sure she wanted to be brought “home”.  It just made sense that she did but she flatly refused to make any funeral arrangements or discuss it at all.  This is understandable as it means thinking about dying.  I think the older you get, the harder that is.

Who did she want making decision for her if she could not make them herself?  Since Mom had gone through a very serious illness previously, I suspected she would want me to do this as I knew her medical conditions but I did not want to assume something so important.  Also, due to a health condition I had, I wanted to make sure who would be second in line.

Would she want to be kept alive if there was no hope?  This one was very difficult.  No one wants to think of this possibility.  This took a lot of thought as to what no hope meant.  To some it might mean if they were hooked up to a breathing machine, dialysis, feeding tube, etc.  After much talking, we decided that if there no way she could live without all that machinery and no hope that she would ever be off it, that she would rather not be here.  She had seen her own mother being kept alive during a fight with cancer when there was no hope and she didn’t want the family to go through that.

Who should make her financial decisions?  Due to her earlier illness, I was already on her checking account and safety deposit box but I wanted this to be clear.  I was not on her savings account, my oldest brother was.

Where all her financial papers are?  Does she have multiple checking and savings accounts?  Where are they?  Does she have life insurance?  Where is her health insurance through?  Does she have both Medicare and secondary insurance or Medicaid?  Does she have CDs, IRAs, etc?  Are there any other assets that you need to know about?  Where is the deed to the house, title to car, etc?  What all automatic deposits or withdrawals come out of her account.

Of course, just talking about all this did not make it legal.  We would have to go see a lawyer and get both financial and medical powers of attorneys,  a living will and a regular will.  More about that later.

The most important this is to start talking about this BEFORE it is too late.