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Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Knowing Their Choices, Granting Their Wishes Can Make ‘The Talk’ a Lot Easier

Conversations with aging parents provide opportunity for wide-ranging discussion and decisions

Nobody likes to think that their parents might need their help in the future. But frequently they do need our help and, as their adult child, we need to be prepared to give it. If you have talked with your parents beforehand about their wishes, their finances and their long-term plans, that help is much easier to provide. If you have not had that conversation, making those decisions during a crisis is the worst-case scenario.

Leeanna McNeilley
Leeanna McNeilley

How do you have that talk? How do you broach the subject? With my parents, I was able to say, “We need to talk. You have asked me to be your power of attorney and I need to understand exactly what you want.” Our talk was easy and direct. My parents were relieved knowing that I understood their wishes about their medical treatments and their long-term care. I was relieved knowing I had a clear understanding of their wishes for their long-term care and their end-of-life choices. Knowing what they want makes my job as their spokesperson clear and unambiguous.

Our conversation opened up the doors to discussions not just about their choices for medical decisions, but to finances, their resources and their choices concerning their long-term living situation.

I was lucky. I could be direct in my approach, but every family is different. You might need to talk with your parents about their past and have it lead to their future plans. You might need to bring in a third party, like an attorney or financial adviser trusted by your parents. You might be surprised that your parents are anxious to have the talk but were unsure, like you, about how to bring it up.

Regardless of your initial approach, there are certain guidelines to remember in every conversation:

Be respectful. Don’t treat them like a child. Listen to what they want and ask questions. You might be surprised about what is most important to them.

Be open with both your heart and your mind. Let them lead you to solutions. Don’t try to figure everything out for them.

It is not about you, it is about them. Keep the conversation focused on their wishes and their needs.

Listen and ask questions. Make sure you’re clear on what they want. Then focus on how to achieve that.

Have the conversation. When everyone is rested and calm, keep the conversation on track.

Every family’s conversation will be different, but there are certain topics that most families need to discuss:

» How are you doing now? Is the lifestyle you have now working for you? Are there physical, mental, emotional or financial concerns we need to talk about?

» What will you do in a crisis? Who should be called and who should be responsible for making decisions if you cannot?

» Do you have an up-to-date will, advance directive, durable power of attorney for finances and health care? Where are the documents kept? Do the people named as power of attorney and executor understand their roles and your wishes?

» Where do you want to live as you age? Most people want to stay in their own home. Will you accept care in the home when and if it is needed? If home care is not an option, what other options would you consider?

» What are your financial resources? Will they allow you to live the way you choose?

It is never too soon to have this conversation, but it can quickly become too late. The mental and physical health of your parents can change suddenly and they may not be able to express their wishes. Without the proper legal paperwork in place, you will not be able to direct their care according to what they would want. And if the legal work is complete, but you have not discussed their wishes, you cannot be sure what options they would have chosen.

Click here for more information about Help Unlimited, senior home care and home health care, or call 805.962.4646.

— Leeana McNeilley is director of Help Unlimited.

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