Talking about the future with your elderly parents can be a difficult and daunting conversation. It certainly isn’t a discussion any of us enjoy having, but it is a necessity. It gives you the opportunity to honour your parents’ preferences, when possible. You will have the chance to talk about everything from care options when independent living is no longer possible through to how their preferred end of life and funeral arrangements. When it comes to it, your contribution to the decision-making can be based on an understanding of those wishes.
If these conversations are ongoing, they will become easier and more comfortable over time. Instead of a one-off, intense discussion, through revisiting the topic you and your parents will be able to talk about the full range of future possibilities.
It is important to remember that it is your parents’ lives you are discussing. Keep in mind that it is your parents’ autonomy and wishes, even if they differ from your own.
Beginning the conversation
A good way to begin is by asking your parents what their biggest concerns are for the future. This topic may evoke thoughts on the past, regrets, or a life assessment. Try to listen uncritically, with empathy. One benefit of this conversation is that having your parents share these thoughts with you can bring you closer.
Discuss housing options
Go on to discuss your parents’ thoughts on housing for the future. While most people prefer to remain in their current home, ask your parents what they would like to do if that were no longer possible. Sometimes this conversation will elicit your parents’ expectations or wishes about moving in with one of their children, or hiring part-time senior care to assist with daily tasks, and it is helpful to have these thoughts, if they exist, out on the table.
Enquire about financial stability
Ask your parents if they feel financially secure and determining if they understand the cost of services they might need, whether in-home care or assisted living. It is important for you to have a record of your parents’ various insurance policies. If your parents don’t already have a will, durable power of attorney and health care proxy, now is a good time to see an elder care attorney so that they can have their wishes implemented as to asset distribution and care.
Address medical care
Do your parents have any concerns about their medical care? Do they have any reservations about their doctors? Do you need to help them find better ones? What are your parent’s wishes as to medical interventions and end-of-life care?
Discuss your parents’ wishes as to death, dying & funerals
Does your parent have any preferences as to funeral and burial?
These conversations may be difficult, but every family member needs to know their parent’s wishes. Researching and actually selecting specific services isn’t morbid, and can really help when the time comes. Adult children who are feeling intense grief over the death of a parent can know that they are contacting the funeral home of their parent’s choice, for example, and can have names and phone numbers available. And elderly parents can be assured that their wishes will be followed even when their adult child is feeling sad and possibly overwhelmed when arranging a funeral.
While initially awkward, having these talks and discussing matters all know they must deal with sooner or later may bring family members closer.