Emotions involved with caring for the elderly can seem almost as overwhelming as the finances. This is especially hard when multiple siblings are involved with different opinions. As your loved ones age, what topics must you be ready to discuss? Beyond money, you need to talk about independence and basic preferences for the way individuals want to live or die. It is important to know the wishes of the individual you are caring first.
Some ideas to get the conversation going:
Start with the most important priorities.
Maybe this first conversation isn’t just about finding such documents as your loved ones’ will or health-care power of attorney (in case they become unable to make medical decisions), though you must eventually get to those. This conversation often begins with how you suddenly notice that your parent or other loved one moves slower, forgets more or clearly looks worse.
Jumping into money issues first is usually a mistake. Instead, consider dealing initially with immediate health and lifestyle issues.
Prepare questions in advance
You need some basic information: the location of important papers how household expenses are paid contact information on doctors and specialists details of medicines and whether your loved ones have a will, an advanced medical directive (similar to a health-care power of attorney) and a written funeral plan. A key note here. I had this conversation with both of my parents and learned that they both wanted to be cremated.
The funeral plan specifies such details as desired types of services, viewing, the funeral itself and any memorials after burial. Also, does the funeral plan mention what money or burial insurance exists to pay for it?
Your family’s personal circumstances may necessitate dozens more questions. When creating this list, ask yourself well beforehand about everything you need to know if your loved one suddenly becomes sick or dies.
In some families, a successful financial discussion comes only after several attempts and some frustration. Try to not become angry. Just keep starting the conversation until it catches on.
Plan a caregiving strategy together
Discuss your loved one’s preferences and trigger points for the various stages of care. I deferred to my father’s discretion in caring for my mother.
Recognize everyone’s limits
Most people almost always want to stay for as long as possible at home, but you must candidly address exactly how much you can manage at home as a caregiver and whether you might all need various services (such as a home aide, geriatric-care manager or an assisted living residence) during the different stages of aging still to come.
There was a significant medical event that made us realize that my mom was no longer able to live at home.
Writing down any pertinent information also saves terrible doubt and bitterness later.
Make sure everyone knows the plan
Once you settle on a strategy, make sure all family and friends understand both the plan and their assignments in it.
These conversations can take – as well as save – a lot of time, energy and love.
Communication like this can save a lot of heartache later on. I can tell you from personal experience.
But having them while your loved ones are still healthy usually eases the burden for everyone if and when the moment comes for long-term care.
I will leave you with this piece of information. My mother did not wish to be kept on life support. Her wishes were known to all. When the time came, my father did want to keep her on life support. I had to remind him of her wishes. We honored her wishes and were able to be at peace with this decision.