Parent Care: It’s Time To Have The Talk
By: Jonathan Peyton
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Asking you to plan for your future is pretty hard. There are esoteric goals to outline, numbers to crunch, and a few headaches to look forward to. Planning for the future is probably one of the hardest tasks you will take one (depending on the size of the goal you are trying to solve). However, that pails in comparison to thinking about our own mortality. How does someone 30 to 50 years away from life expectancy get excited about death? The answer is, they don’t. You might not have to think about it too much for yourself, BUT you do need to start thinking about it for your aging parents. In this article we will talk about two ways you can start a conversation centered around how to find out what your parents have in place for end-of-life care.
Parent Care aka “Who’s taking mom and dad?”
Planning for a future in a nursing home is less than appealing. There isn’t anyone standing in line knocking down the door for sterilized rooms with institutional care. No one is chomping at the bit to sell their home and move into a community with a bunch of people they don’t know. Unfortunately these scenarios are reality. If your parents are not reserving their spots today they may not have a spot, or could pay A LOT for varying levels of care when they actually need around-the-clock care.
We are not going to get into the different types of adult living communities or the different care packages in this article. Instead we are going to focus on understanding your parent’s wishes. Too often I talk to clients who are in their 70-80’s and ask them if their children fully understand their end-of-life plans. Two typical responses I hear are, “I will tell them when they need to know” or “I haven’t even thought about it, so what am I supposed to say?” In both cases I tell parents they run the risk of placing an enormous burden on their children during an emotional time. The decision of where to put mom or dad and the type of care they should receive can take an immense toll on children. For this reason I encourage parents to conduct some pre-planning towards the types of care they want, the types of services they might need, and the costs associated with the different adult living communities.
If your parent has not opened up to you about what type of care they want in their final years, then I strongly encourage you to start a dialogue now. But how? How are we supposed to start a conversation with our parents without seeming like we are prying into their personal, or financial affairs. I mean what are we supposed to say, “Hey dad, are you expecting me to bathe, dress, and feed you later in life?” Some parents would say “Yes” while many others would say “Hell No!” This is why starting the conversation before the need for senior care is needed takes a little finesse.
There are two strategies I advise clients to use with their parents that tend to work well when the children want discuss to end-of-life plans.
- Ask your parents if there is someone named as their Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) and their healthcare proxies.
- “I am updating my estate documents and need to know what my role in your senior care plans will look like, so I can make sure the family knows. Do you want to move in with me later in life?”
The first question tries to subtly ask who their financial “stand-ins” will be in the event they become incapacitated. If they name you, then you can ask them what your responsibilities will be, what their expectations for end-of-life care would look like, and what plans they have if they do not make a full recovery.
The second question is a little more abrupt. This attempts to start the conversation from a “I am getting my affairs in order, have you?” If they have then they should be able to outline their goals and concerns. If they have not, then this is a prefect time to start the conversation. However, if your parents HAVE NOT started planning for help later in life, then you may need to work closely with them to outline a plan for parent care. Otherwise you could be left making the tough decisions on your own, or worse with siblings (which could cause fighting).
Planning for your future is hard, but adding your parents health, wealth, and long term care needs onto your plate can make your life even harder. Everyone wants to believe that having a parent move in with them when the time comes will not be a problem. In fact, I have been told “That is what other families do” or “I love mom/dad and they are welcome to stay with me”. However the stress of taking care of your parent(s) coupled with your current responsibilities (think spouse, kids, and your job) can make for a powder keg at times.
We all love our parents and will do what we can to help them. Therefore we strongly encourage you to consider having “the talk” now before you are left cleaning out the guest room for the next permanent resident.
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.