In the first of this two-part series, I talked about conversations involving changes in life where you as the child of an older parent may be required to step up to help your parent or see that proper help is available. This second part is devoted to conversations about preparations for end of life, life’s final transitions. As with Part 1, these conversations also are a lot about making sure that one’s wishes are fulfilled, in this case those of your older parent. As with the other conversations of Part 1, you may find that it is even easier to talk with your older parent about end of life issues if you have attended to your own documents as well.
Last Will and Testament. In the past I have interviewed an elder law attorney about the legal issues surrounding wills and advanced health directives. I am going to break these out a bit. It may surprise you to know that the majority of Americans do not have a written will, and you may be one of them. It may very well be that your older parent is entirely justified in believing that his or her needs will be attended following their demise, and that everything will be divided up equitably among the survivors. But the court system will still intervene in the form of probate to settle these issues legally, and that can only serve to diminish what is there for the heirs. Plus, if one wishes to share mementos or memorabilia with special meaning with an heir, this will carry even more import if the benefactor has written a note about the history of that object. As with some of these other difficult discussions, they may be easier if you make it personal by drafting with your attorney your own will.
Advance Healthcare Directives. And then there is the other will – a living will, which is part of anyone’s advanced healthcare directives. The last thing an older parent would probably want in the event of a health crisis is to have a disagreement among family members about what mom or dad “would have wanted.” Here again, it can be very helpful to have a family attorney guide you through what documents are needed to preserve end of life choices as an older adults wishes. Once the paperwork is done, it is important also that these documents are part of a parent’s medical record and their personal physicians are aware of the document(s) and have a copy in the chart. Also, if a parent is living in a facility, a copy should be on file there. Finally, a copy should be on file at the hospital your parent would use if needed. One last time, by taking care of your own personal documentation you have a great way to introduce the subject to a parent in a very nonthreatening way. Remind them also that you will be quite distressed in such an event and that their decisions and choices in a calmer moment ahead of time would provide better choices.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.