If you had to suddenly step in to help an aging parent after a stroke or heart attack that might leave her unable to speak or think clearly, would you know what to do to help? What if he were in a coma? What would you do first? Would you know her end-of-life wishes or where he keeps the deed to the house?
Many grown children – whether out of respect or fear — haven’t raised those issues with their elderly parents and that not knowing could result in irreparable and costly decisions. Maybe mom doesn’t want to be on life support or dad has already made provisions for the family home, but you are clueless. Having to face these decisions in times of trauma greatly adds to the level of stress you will already be facing.
Of course, asking your parents or any other elder relative about death and dying is difficult. You don’t want to think about it or maybe they don’t. Or maybe asking those questions brings your own mortality into focus.
Here is a guide from A Place for Mom to some of the essential financial questions that you should ask of anyone that you love, especially your aging parents, grandparents or spouse. Do it before the crisis hits. Do it as a group exercise with the entire family so everybody — including the sibling who tends to get hysterical — is in the loop. Another strategy might be to bring it up in reference to yourself so your parents will know what to do in case something happens to you and then encourage them to share their own thoughts those final days or which drawer or old copy of Ebony Magazine they have the insurance papers stuffed in. Having to be a forensic detective while making nursing home or funeral home decisions is far worse than the awkwardness of a much needed discussion.