Saturday, May 3, 2014

It's Time To Have That Talk

As parents age, many families still have difficulty discussing end of life care.  Adult children don't like to think of their parents as mortal, and if they refuse to have the discussion, maybe mom or dad will never die.   Unfortunately, this is not true.  Perhaps the adult children feel that such a discussion is unnecessary.  Perhaps they are just too busy to find the time.  But many adult children become caregivers for their elderly parents, either physically, by having mom or dad move in with them, or administratively, by ensuring that mom and dad get the needed care elsewhere, such as in assisted living, or home with a caregiver.  It is very important for adult children to sit down with mom and dad and discuss a couple of things.  One is end-of-life care in the event of a terminal illness-- what medical interventions would they want, and not want, as they see the end of their life?  For this, a Health Care Proxy is an invaluable tool on which the adult children can rely for guidance, but it is no substitute for the conversation.  The other major topic is burial and funeral wishes.  Some wish to be buried in a plot, others wish to be cremated.  Some would like a funeral or memorial service, others do not.  Some would like visiting hours or shiva, others would prefer to skip those things.  By having the discussion with elderly parents ahead of time, when mom or dad passes away, the children will not have to guess what to do, especially at such an emotional time.  Most funeral homes offer advance arrangements, such as identifying a burial plot and discussing the type of services that will be needed.  This is difficult stuff, and losing a parent might be one of the greatest emotional challenges an adult child will ever face, but it is a gift you can give both to your parents and to yourself if you are armed with this information in advance.