Realizing that your parents are getting older and your roles are reversing can be a difficult pill to swallow. Sensitive topics like this are always difficult to broach, and apprehension can kick in as you wonder how the other party will take what you have to say. The reality is that the significant changes to your parent’s life will also affect those around them. While at one time you may have looked to your parents for guidance, now you are the one who needs to take on this role. Here are some difficult but necessary discussions to have with your aging parents.
Start the Conversation
Discussing your parents’ wishes before there is an issue at hand is ideal. Most people are more practical about a situation if it seems a long way off in the future. Granted, not every family will have the luxury of time, but if you can, try to have discussions years before the need arises. The worst time to have a conversation with an aged parent is when they are already flustered after crashing the car, or you find them lost and disorientated.
Discussions about death are more straightforward when it is not imminent. Look for ways to naturally bring up the subject of your parent’s funeral wishes, like when they are talking about a friend that has recently passed away. You may find that your parents have already made significant headway on their plans. Moreover, many seniors prefer to discuss their funeral arrangements to ensure it will be to their preferences. Some of the topics to discuss include:
- Would they choose burial or cremation?
- Do they have a burial plot?
- Where would they like to be buried or scattered?
- Would they prefer a “do not resuscitate” or DNR order in their final days?
- Would they like a religious ceremony, or do they have a special place for the funeral?
There may come a time when your parents are not able to fully take care of themselves. You also may not have the time or space to take on the additional and challenging role of caring for elderly parents. Talk to them about what to look for in an assisted living facility. You can book a tour to check out different places and even book in for day stays or short-term care at some locations. Having these conversations early will give your parents time to process the various options and state their priorities.
Legalities and Paperwork
Money matters can be the most difficult of all conversations to have with parents. You don’t want to come across as money-grabbing, nor do you want them to feel like they are losing their independence. Chat to your parents about having a folder that includes the following information:
- Do they have a will?
- Where is the will located?
- Who is their lawyer?
- Will they offer you permission to speak with their lawyer?
- Who is the executor of their estate?
- Do they have powers of attorney?
- Do they have a list of their monthly utility bills?
- Where do they keep their tax returns?
- Do they have a list of their various bank accounts?
- Do they have a safety deposit box?
Although these pragmatic discussions can be tricky, it will be a lot harder to find this information during a crisis.
Talking with your parents about the effects of aging and the associated challenges for independence, finances, and care is never easy. Some families have much more open communication lines than others or may have a more pragmatic way of dealing with the business of moving on in years. Despite how anxiety-provoking these talks might be, the best time to start is now.