This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a Luau with my 92-year-old friend at the assisted living facility where she lives. There was Hawaiian food, Polynesian dancers, and even ponies and face painting. The dining rooms were full to the brim with visiting families, but I couldn’t help but notice the residents who sat alone. I spoke with two such residents who told me their families rarely visit them. I found myself thinking about my own grandparents and great-grandparents and the steps we had taken to ensure not only that they were cared for, but that we continued to foster a healthy relationship with them during those twilight years.
One of the hardest things to discuss with your family members is end-of-life planning, but I also believe that having those discussions early enough can make a huge difference in the state of your finances and your relationships when it does come time to start making those decisions. Transitioning out of independent living can be an incredibly stressful time which is why we highly recommend taking the time to sit down with whoever will help you make those decisions and discussing them in advance when everyone’s stress level is much lower. Whether you’re a parent wanting to discuss your wishes with your children, or a child wanting to know what the plan is, when it does come time to have this conversation, you may want to consider discussing some of the following topics:
Is there a will?
You may not feel comfortable discussing the contents of the will (and that’s totally ok), but you should discuss whether or not a will exists. If there is no such will, discuss steps that should be taken to establish one. If there is a will, take the time to understand where the will can be found and who is in charge of executing it.
Do you/your parents have Long-Term Care Insurance?
Particularly for families with a history of health issues, understanding how late-in-life health care costs will be covered is really important. One of the greatest points of tension when it comes to elderly care is cost – particularly if the cost is being borne by family members. Take the time to understand how this cost will be covered, or if it’s not being covered, what can be done to prepare for that particular scenario.
What are your/your parent’s preferences?
When it comes to any type of familial decision making I believe it’s really important for all parties to lay their expectations out on the table. Do you expect or need your children to care for you? Do they expect to care for you? Do you have certain preferences for the type of care you’d like to receive? It’s much easier to discuss your expectations and share your circumstances when the stakes aren’t very high, but it can save a lot of heartache to have already discussed and shared expectations when the time for action arrives.
Finally, whatever the outcome of your conversations, I hope you choose to visit your elderly. I had a wonderful time at the Luau today largely because I know how much it meant to my friend that she had a visitor. Having watched both my grandmother and my mother care for their mothers-in-law, I know that end-of-life care can be incredibly hard on a family, but I also know that having a family who cares and visits can make all the difference.