As our parents age, we often try not to think about the worst case scenarios. The truth is that your parents will age and come to a state where they depend on you to handle their financial, legal, and emotional matters. It’s important for you to know their wishes and how to obtain sensitive and necessary documentation. Here are seven questions to ask your aging parents when preparing for the coming years.
1. Do you have someone to make healthcare decisions for you?
In most cases, aging parents are expected to make healthcare decisions for their spouse; however, decisions can be prolonged or go in the opposite direction of what a person wanted. This is because family and close friends can become too emotionally attached to their own wants and needs. Your aging parents can select a health care proxy who will handle all their healthcare decisions. Before they designate one, they need to be sure this person can carry out their wishes.
2. Do you know what type of medical care you want?
Having a health care decision maker only works well if they understand medical care wishes, which is why it is crucial to discuss all needs and desires of your parents with the decision maker, especially when faced with end of life decisions. Comfort levels, pain management, life support decisions— these are all important as your parents establish boundaries and control in their aging years.
3. Do you have a will or living trust?
The fact that your parents are still living does not mean they shouldn’t have a living trust established. Typically, when a spouse passes away, the surviving spouse automatically receives the assets. However, what should happen if they become incapacitated or pass away soon thereafter? It’s important that a will or living trust be put in place and documented so their possessions and legacy can be passed on as they wish.
4. Do you have a long-term care plan in place?
Some parents believe they will stay at home until they pass on while others understand the benefits of a senior living facility. There are costs involved either way; such as an actual caretaker, medications, and supportive equipment. As the costs of caring for the senior community rises and fluctuates, having a long-term care plan locked in place is going to be helpful and financially secure. If long-term care insurance has not been discussed, then set up an appointment for you, your parents, and the insurance agent to review the policy and all options in full.
5. Where can I find important documents?
If you are not familiar with where your parents keep their important documents, then it’s time to find out. If something were to happen to them, you don’t want to waste time searching their home for up-to-date insurance documents, medical paperwork, financial statements, or proxy designation forms. Any documents kept in a safe deposit box should have a designated person with a key to access it.
6. Do you have all medical information listed in one location?
Should an emergency happen, it could be critical for any attending physicians to consult with your parent’s primary care physician (PCP). There may have been a recent appointment that uncovered important information about your parent’s medical condition. You should have a list of all assigned physicians and how to contact them.
7. What are your current medications?
As your parents age, you can expect that sooner or later there may be medication management problems. They may get confused regarding what prescriptions they take and why. They may mix up their dosage. Having a clear understanding of their prescriptions could save your parent’s life.
Some of these may be tough conversations, but sometimes the best way to be there for your aging parents is to be straight-forward and cover the difficult questions that could ultimately shape their lives.