The Greatest Generation believed that money and wills were extremely private matters not be discussed with anyone, especially their children. Baby Boomers are a bit more open and understand the importance of planning and communicating their wishes for elder care.
As parents age, discussing elder planning information is essential. If it is not proffered by parents, adult children can find themselves in an awkward situation. Here are some ideas on how to hold some of the most difficult conversations.
Health care proxy, advanced directives, living will.
Every day, hospital staff deals with difficult end-of-life situations; the patient does not have written directives in place and family members are battling each other for control. That can be avoided if the elder has appropriately documented and communicated their wishes. Consider opening the subject by using yourself as an example. “I was reading about the importance of advanced directives and I’m working on one now. Have you done that? Did you give someone a copy?”
It is especially important to know the elder’s wishes regarding life support and whether or not they want to be intubated and/or resuscitated. These important forms should be filed with the physician, where they become part of the patient record.
This is one of the toughest conversations, so it is important to remain objective and sensitive. Approach the conversation as a matter of practicality, asking “What should I know about your planning so I can make sure your wishes are met?” “Have you assigned an executor of the estate and given them the details of your assets?” If the elder gets upset, reassure them that you simply want to make sure that their wishes are carried out.
The majority of parents naturally feel that their financial affairs are no one’s business. However, understanding what money the elder has is key to knowing what type of long term care is possible. If asking the elder about finances is taboo, then seek help. If a financial planner or lawyer is involved, s/he may be willing to encourage the elder to talk to the children about the plans that have been put in place. Otherwise, make the discussion as business like as possible.
Hard feelings may exist temporarily after holding these discussions, but they are nothing compared with the pain of knowing that a loved one’s wishes are not being honored after death. Respectfully acknowledging that you want to help carry out the elder’s wishes will work in the long run.
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