Earlier this summer, my 83 year old father ended up nearly bedridden before having extensive back surgery. After several weeks in the hospital, he was discharged to a rehab facility to recover for a couple months before returning home. This was a wake-up call for our family.
Like many families, reasonably good health of aging parents didn’t provide any particular reason to have a serious conversation about what to do if one or both parents could no longer care for themselves. How quickly things can change. It’s been almost four months since his back surgery and he still isn’t able to fully care for himself. And the biggest problem for me, I live 3,500 miles away and I can’t do much to help my other nearby siblings and mother.
Waiting until a small issue becomes a big concern is too late. At that point, a family is forced to respond to a crisis rather than have the luxury of implementing a well-thought-out plan to help with living a quality life.
Like many families, ours is learning under pressure and out of necessity. Let me some suggest a few things that might help your family to better plan in advance to care for aging parents.
- Initiate a conversation with all family members about the need for a plan. Topics might include finances, legal planning as well medical care decisions.
- Learn about your parents’ wishes. Find you what kinds of medical treatment and care they desire under various circumstances. It is always best to hear first hand the wishes of parents and not have to make an emotionally-laden guess when tough decisions are necessary.
- Determine what written documents are needed. Is there an updated estate plan, will, living will, durable power of attorney, health care surrogate, etc.?
- Discuss difficult subjects like when the older person should stop driving. Include conversation about possible options to prevent isolation when that time comes.
These kinds of conversations can be difficult to initiate due to a wide variety of reasons and a complex weave of relationships. The more openly these topics are discussed, the easier it will be to address situations before crises arise. And further more, when the aging parent is included in the conversation, it allows them to feel more empowered as they participate in the decision-making process.
QUESTION: What topic have you found to be the hardest conversation to have with aging parents? Use the comment area below.