Important Life Questions as Your Parents Age
When my brother died I went through all the usual reactions: grief, gratitude that his pain was over, thankfulness for his life, regret, reassessment, and more. Then I had an unexpected response – I found myself mad at him for leaving me to look after our parents. My parents were aging fast, and I had important life questions.
Seriously. The unspoken plan was always “Geoff as caretaker.” For a lot of reasons, this was how we all expected their senior years to play out. My brother and my parents would pretty much take care of one-another, symbiosis- a long-term quid pro quo. So when he died I also felt, “There you go, leaving me holding the bag again!”
In consequence, over the past few years a number of really good things have happened, including the miracle of moving my folks in next door. There’s a lot my brother and I did wrong, and a number of things we did right.
How are you preparing for your parents’ later years? Like any journey, it’s best to prepare in advance. Here are a few questions to answer as you move forward into the reality of your parents aging.
Are you at peace with your parents?
We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. It never makes any sense to carry anger, resentment, or misunderstandings into the future. [Tweet This] Now is the right time to make peace with your parents.
Do you have a plan, going forward?
The cliche reads, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll likely end up someplace else.” A crisis is the worst time to make long term decisions. Yet that’s what happens when we haven’t made plans. Sit down with your parents (and your siblings) and make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to their wishes, their priorities, and the realities of what resources will be at play.
Are you actually having a conversation about the future?
It’s fun to dream about grand dreams, but it’s also important to have a realistic idea of what is going to be possible and what’s not going to be possible.
Have you seriously considered long-term nursing home insurance?
Most insurance plans do not cover long term care outside the hospital setting. Few families are set up to care for one-another on an intensive, day-to-day basis. Unless someone is willing – and able – to be available 24/7, some provision for long term care is going to be essential. At the very least, talk over the possible scenarios.
Do your parents have a “Living Will”?
Living Will protocols vary from state to state. Make sure that your parents’ wishes are well documented, so the hard decisions have already been made before a crisis. It makes it impossible to make a hard call. All the siblings need is to have a copy of your parents’ end of life directives, and they also need to be filed with their primary care giver. Additionally, do you know all your parents wishes including where everything important is located?
Do you have a working understanding with your siblings?
Have a working understanding with your siblings with regards to every question we are considering. Again, now is the time to make peace and start talking, not later. Everyone needs to be in the loop, and it’s important that everyone is clear regarding your parents’ plans, wishes, directives, and preferences. Do you all know, for example, if your parents want to be cremated or buried? Do you know where their will is located? Do you know what they want done with family treasures?
Are you working hard to make sure your parents keep active and continue living?
The most important thing is to be an encouragement and a help to your parents now, so they enjoy every possibility of making the most of their lives going forward. This means communication, respect, listening, and active love. Are you doing all you can to make sure your parents enjoy a fully-engaged life today?
What are you worried most about as your parents age?