I may have a really good education in aging, but I’m still like a lot of you. My parents are in their 80s and it’s time to make a good working plan. We’ve made a good start but have a ways to go.
“Plan for what?” you might be thinking. The inevitable crisis — that time when one of them gets too sick, or can’t drive, or needs more help around the house, or may even have to sell their beloved home and move.
These are hard questions to ask of your parents but as the old adage goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I’ve interviewed hundreds of seniors who’ve told me horror stories about waiting too long to make a plan and suffering the consequences. Don’t let this happen to you or your parents.
So what questions do we need to be asking our parents?
What Are Your Wishes?
- If you become too frail or sick and cannot live at home, what do you want to do?
This is a tough one. I’ve had this conversation with my own parents. Their number one concern is that they stay together. They have decided if one of them gets really bad off, they’ll want to sell their home and get something much smaller. We haven’t got to exactly what type of housing they will want. We’re still working on that one. I do know what is available in our small community. We have a number of senior apartments, one assisted living and a very nice modular/mobile home estate for seniors. We’ll need to visit all of these soon so my parents know what’s available to them.
I also need to find out the best services available should they need in-home care. Like most communities, there are a lot of companies to choose from in our town. I also need to find out if their medical insurance will help pay for in-home care and facilitate obtaining a good provider.
- Who do you want to make decisions for you should you not be able to make them on your own?
They’ve already written up a Life Estate plan and have told me where all their papers are, should I need them. As an only child, I know it will be up to me to insure they are taken care of. I wouldn’t have it any other way. For those of you with siblings, this is a hard one but it is necessary for this to be in writing. You’ll need to find an attorney to get this arranged. The whole family should know who will pay bills, who will make health decisions and what goes to whom. They should also give their health care provider their medical decisions such as DNR’s and medical proxies.
Perhaps the Hardest of All
- What are your funeral wishes?
I’m lucky my parents have this one covered. They’ve bought their plot and only want a graveside service. I am so glad I didn’t have to ask this question. I had a hard time when they began their search for their burial site. It’s done and I’m glad. If you don’t know your parents’ wishes for their funerals, you’ll need to find out. Make sure they put this information where you can find it, along with their other important papers.
Getting on the Same Page with Family Members
It is so important that all of your parents’ children know their last wishes for housing, medical care and funeral decisions. It should be done when you are all together. Your parents need to have it written down for all to see. Should you have trouble between family members, I strongly encourage you to reach out to a family mediator. They are experts on working out problems regarding elderly parents and retaining those important relationships between the siblings.