How many of us know what our parents’ wishes are for healthcare and long-term care as they age and approach the end of their lives? The only real way to know is to ask them – but how many of us have done that?
It can seem like an awkward and unappealing conversation to begin. No one likes to think about a time when they may be too sick or too old to care for themselves, or that their parents might reach that point. However, those situations can arise suddenly and without warning. Only by talking with them about this now will you be prepared if a healthcare crisis occurs. And parents – if your kids don’t want to bring this up, then you need to sit them down and tell them your wishes.
You may think you know what care your parents want, but chances are you will be a little – maybe a lot – surprised about what they tell you their wishes are – mom may want to stay at home instead of going to a facility, or dad may no longer want to be resuscitated. If you KNOW, then you will be in a position to honor their actual wishes.
Also, talking about this as a family and knowing their wishes can avoid tearing a family apart during a crisis, when sis wants to do this, brother wants to do that, and you are the tie-breaker, or worse. All too often, these disputes can end up in court, and every member of the family pays a significant financial and emotional cost.
In addition to you and your parents talking candidly about their preferences, assure that they each have written healthcare directives, which include living wills, which will make clear what their end-of-life decisions are, but will also make clear whom they want to make decisions about their medical care when they are unable.
And while you’re at it, get your own house in order – if you have adult children, have this discussion about your own wishes with them, and put your own advance directives in place!
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