It’s the conversation no one wants to have: what are your plans for the end of your life? There comes a time when adult children need to step into the caregiving role for their parents – taking on more tasks for them, helping them with chores or checking in more often. Finding the time to discuss their wishes while they can still make those decisions for themselves will take away the chance at many frustrating conversations in the future.
Do you know what they want for the end of their life? Invite your parents to sit down with familiar loved ones (spouses, siblings, other children) and reassure them that you respect their wishes and just want to be prepared and be able to help. If your parents are still on the younger side and maybe not needing assisted living or memory care for a bit yet, ask them what they did to prepare their parents for end of life planning. This could open the conversation and you could begin to understand what they want for theirs. When you are having the talk, prepare some questions like…
- Do you feel safe living at home?
- How do you feel about driving?
- How are you doing managing bills?
- Do you need help with housekeeping or laundry?
- Would it be less stressful to not worry about taking care of the house?
Continue to check in with your parents when things come up (health concerns, death in the family) and try having a conversation again. Thinking about end of life planning can be scary and overwhelming, but approaching it slowly will give them time to think about things and easier for you to make the decisions when you need to.
When it comes time for your parent to require assistance, do you know where they want to go? Would they prefer to stay at home and have a caregiver visit to help? Do they want to move in with you? Are they open to possibly moving into a memory care or assisted living community? Explaining the living scenarios with a pros and cons list can easily help your parents navigate where they would like to live.
“Before you can make any decisions on your parent’s living or care arrangements, you should review their net worth to get an idea of what they can afford. Calculate retirement savings, debt, Social Security, pensions, assets and any other income. Do they have long-term care insurance? What debt do they need to pay off? Has your parent assigned a power of attorney? This information will be imperative to making sure your parents are well cared for as they require more assistance.”
“The most uncomfortable subject to discuss is what your parents want when they pass away. And while no one wants to discuss it, you should be aware of your parents’ wishes in a medical situation. If they have not already, suggest your parents set up a living will. A living will is a written statement detailing a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances where they are no longer able to express informed consent. This will help you understand exactly what your parents’ wishes are in a medical emergency.”
The Caregiver Role
“As your parents age, you will likely step into more of a caregiver role. If you have siblings, define expectations around what caring for your parents means. If you all live in the same area, make sure you are splitting the functions of a caregiver, so no one experiences burn out. If your family is spread nationally/globally, make sure you are asking for the help you need. Setting clear boundaries up front can help eliminate some of the frustrations that come with caregiving.
If the caregiver responsibilities fall on a sibling, how can you help? Step in where you can. Offer to transport your parent to and from appointments from time-to-time; pick up mom or dad for dinner so your sibling can have a break; offer to take over for a weekend so they can get some time away. Caregivers often forget to take care of themselves while taking care of loved ones, so be the person to care for the caregiver.”
Thank you to Aegis Senior Living for the information in this article.