End of life planning is a subject that is difficult for adult children to broach with their aging parents for many reasons. But sticking our heads in the sand isn’t any kind of solution to dealing with the inevitable subject of our own mortality.
In some families, wills, estate issues and care plans for the end of life are discussed openly and honestly while in others, the subject is avoided entirely. Adult children may not want to give their elderly parents the impression that they are eagerly awaiting the time of their death in order to inherit. Or parents and grandparents do not want to spend their precious time discussing death when they could be enjoying their grandchildren. In many cases, both sides want to talk about plans for the future but don’t know how to open a dialogue.
Adult children can begin by looking for clues that their parents are open to talking about what will happen when they can no longer make decisions for themselves. Older parents may bring up the subject of updating a will or appointing a power-of-attorney; listen for an opening and find a good time to sit down, unhurried to discuss future plans. Try to remember this discussion is about your parents’ wishes, not yours. Your role is to listen and try to be supportive in making these important decisions before an emergency strikes.
Not all of us will be lucky enough to have all of our affairs in order by the time we reach a point when we can no longer make decision for ourselves but by lifting the sense of taboo off the topic of end of life care, the process can be much less stressful. Caregivers are usually loved ones who in moments of crisis are forced to make swift and weighty decisions. With a clear idea of what their family member wants and how to proceed in the event of a serious medical situation, the struggle to make the correct decision can be eased.
To learn more about planning for end of life care and advance directives, visit the National Institute on Aging website at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/end-life-helping-comfort-and-care/planning-end-life-care-decisions .