There will come a time in many people’s lives where they have to step in and provide care for an ailing or aging parent.
This is almost always a difficult transition, but it can be even more stressful if you don’t understand what your parent wants, or if they are resistant to your help.
Talking about these issues before they arise can help make the situation much easier. Here are some topics to consider.
What medical care does your parent want?
Were something catastrophic to happen, what care would they want? Would your parent want all possible life-saving measures, or simply to be kept comfortable while nature took its course? Something in between? Do they have an advance directive that outlines their wishes? You don’t want to have to guess during such a difficult time.
Who do they want to be responsible?
Ask your parent who they would prefer to be responsible for making financial decisions and authorizing medical treatment if they were unable to do so themselves. This could be you, one of your siblings, a close friend or relative, or even a professional. If they haven’t already, talk to your parent about creating a power of attorney that gives this person the proper authority.
Where do they want to live?
Does your parent want to stay at home for as long as possible, or would they prefer a residential facility (i.e., assisted living or a nursing home) where they would have more company? If they want to stay at home, would they prefer a family caregiver or a professional? Knowing their wishes can help you make respectful choices if the time comes.
Do they have a plan to pay for long-term care?
Long-term care is expensive, whether it is provided at home or in a nursing home. Planning for this expense ahead of time can make it easier to afford. Your parent might want to consider long-term care insurance, Medicaid planning or other financial strategies. If your parent doesn’t have a plan already, it may be the right time for them to meet with an elder law or estate planning attorney to explore their options.
How to best approach the conversation
Many people are reluctant to talk about long-term care, because they don’t want to imagine a world in which things are not going well. This is natural. Be patient with your parent if they are reluctant to talk, and try to approach the issue gently.
If you have siblings or other relatives who may be involved with your parent’s care, it can be helpful to meet ahead of time. Make a game plan, and let everyone share what they would or would not be willing to do in the future.
For more tips on how to approach this conversation, the AARP offers a helpful guide.