On Tuesday, March 16, we hosted a webinar on the topic, “Difficult Discussions with Your Aging Parents.” Analee Kruger walked us through creating an aging plan with senior parents. Too often, families find themselves thrown into a difficult situation without warning when a parent falls, becomes ill, or starts needing extra help. The middle of a crisis isn’t a good time to make long-term decisions. Ideally, you’ve thought it all through ahead of time.
If not, now is the time to get started. Aging shouldn’t come as any surprise: we all know seniors often have health crises or need extra help. Before any of that happens, call a family meeting where all responsible parties—seniors, spouses, adult children, and anyone else necessary—discuss the options and possibilities. Take the time to make a decision together while everyone is calm and you have plenty of time.
Some seniors are happy to move into a retirement center and leave the responsibility of homeownership behind. Others want to stay in their own homes as long as they possibly can. Honestly discuss what is practical. Is your parent’s home full of stairs and ledges, or is it suitable for a person with decreased mobility?
Who will be able to help your senior parents? Will they be living alone, with a spouse, or with other family members? If they are alone, who will check in on them? Is there anyone local who can run errands, do yardwork, or stop to chat? It isn’t healthy for anyone to be too isolated, and regular checks can catch health problems.
If your parent is likely to need frequent help, more than family can provide, will they hire a home health aide or nurse? Who will pay for that?
If retirement or nursing home living is the best choice, how much will it cost? Do you have a facility in mind? It’s good to have an idea what’s available in the area before it comes time to move in.
What retirement funds are available? Will it cover long-term residential care or a home health aide if and when needed? Bringing a financial advisor into the conversation can be helpful. They can help you work out the cost of long-term care, and how to make the money stretch to cover everything needed.
Another important financial point to discuss is power of attorney. Who in the family is willing, trusted, and able to make financial decisions if your senior parent is incapable? Are they still able to keep track of and pay important bills, or should someone else take over those duties?
What health concerns does your senior parent currently have? Are these under control and getting regular care? Who is accompanying them to appointments and helping keep track of the doctors’ orders? It’s wise to keep all this information in writing, in case of a health crisis where your parent isn’t able to communicate.
Is your parent still mentally alert and capable? Are there conditions that could reduce medical capacity in the future? Agree on a plan for what should be done in case of a loss of mental capacity. If capacity is lessened, it’s a good idea for someone else to share financial decisions. Seniors often lose their money to scams when they’re suffering from dementia or other problems.
Another important topic is driving. Honestly discuss whether your parent is still able to drive safely, and when it will be time to give up the car keys. Declining vision, reaction time, or mental acuity can make driving unsafe.
Don’t wait till a loved one is already incapacitated to get their end-of-life wishes in writing. That leads to fights among the family of what your senior parents would have wanted. Better to know for sure what they wish to be done for them when they are near death.
A DNR, or do-not-resuscitate order, makes sure medical staff don’t continue reviving a terminal patient against their wishes. Some seniors would prefer to die at home rather than be hospitalized long-term. It’s the family’s job to respect and carry out those wishes, even if it isn’t what they would choose.
They may also have specific burial or funeral wishes. The more they can spell out, the less there will be for the family to fight over later.
Don’t wait to have these conversations until it becomes urgent. First, watch the recording of our webinar on our YouTube channel. All of our webinars appear on YouTube after the event is over, making it a great opportunity to learn even if you can’t make the live event. Once you’re well educated on how to start, sit down with your parents and make a plan together.