The Difficult Conversations You Need to Have with Your Aging Parents
For much of your life, your parents have supported you, watched over you, and helped you navigate the challenges of life. Now it’s time for you to come alongside them as they make some of the hard decisions that come with growing older. These conversations are never easy to have, but with careful preparation and timing, you can help your parents feel confident that they are advocating for the best choices for themselves in the coming years.
Money is an awkward topic in some families. In fact, your parents come from a generation in which many people think it’s impolite to talk directly about personal finances. However, it is essential that children understand the details of their parents’ finances so they can make smart decisions on their behalf. It’s best to sit down with a list of specific questions as you look through files and documents together, covering the following topics:
- Estate Planning
- Mortgages and Downsizing
- Checking, Savings, and Credit Card Accounts
- Income and Expenses
- Methods of Bill Payment
- Tax Returns
- Insurance Policies
One of the most important ways you can help with your parents’ finances is ensuring that you have access to both hard copy documents and online accounts. Create a secure file that includes usernames and passwords so you can access this information at any time.
A startling number of seniors who should be receiving care are living alone, including 25% of those with Alzheimer's or dementia. Such isolation puts their health, safety, and emotional well-being at risk. Talking to your parents about transitioning to an assisted living facility can be uncomfortable at first, especially if they are still relatively independent. However, the sooner you have the conversation, the more you will empower them to make the choices they want about the facility, cost, and level of care.
If you and your parents aren’t sure when it’s the right time to move, keep your eyes open for these red flags:
- Forgetting about their medical needs, such as taking medication and keeping appointments.
- Falling behind in their housekeeping, creating safety and sanitation hazards.
- Showing signs of poor nutrition as they struggle or forget to prepare food.
- Falling into financial trouble as they forget to pay bills or fall victim to scams.
- Suffering from loneliness and depression that comes from social isolation.
Ideally, you will be able to put a plan in place before you notice these signs, so that when the time is right, you and your parents can focus on a smooth and pleasant transition that celebrates their new residence, amenities, and social connections.
Talking about end-of-life choices, of course, will be the hardest conversation. It is best to be as direct and honest as possible, accepting the emotions that come along with the topic without shame or guilt. The goal is to help your parents make the best decisions now so that when their last months, weeks, and days arrive, you can focus on spending precious time together. Make sure you take the time to discuss the following topics in detail:
- Options and Timing for Hospice Care
- Living Will or DNR (do not resuscitate) Instructions
- Healthcare Power of Attorney or Healthcare Proxy
- Funeral Arrangements
- Legacy Assets and Special Bequests
Hospice care, in particular, deserves careful discussion ahead of time. Many people put off hospice, believing it is a sign of “giving up,” when it is actually a way to embrace life. By starting hospice sooner, your parents can receive relief from pain sooner, and then make the most of their time with loved ones.
Hospice of North Central Ohio can help prepare you for these important conversations with your parents. As you think through the issues, don’t hesitate to use us as a resource. Find out more about us here, or give us a call: 800-952-2207.