Many adult children take the opportunity during the holidays to have “the talk” regarding long term planning with their parents. For those considering doing so, here are some things to remember.
It is important that you time these discussions appropriately. You do not want to have this discussion during “the big family meal”, as it can become stressful and could potentially transform a nice family meal to a disastrous event. Often a location outside of the family home, such as a coffee shop or restaurant, may have less potential for emotionally charged conversations.
Consider who should be in attendance at the meeting, as a parent may feel “ganged up on” if there are too many people present. Also give careful consideration to whom is the best person to deliver the message. Often the child who resides nearby and is most involved in caregiving is not the child that the parent will respond best to.
If you are discussing legal documentation, many parents think they have sufficient legal documents if they have a Will. However, it is important to also have an Advance Directive, which is a legal document that appoints someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable, as well as allows you to outline what your medical wishes are. All adults should also have a Financial Power of Attorney document which appoints someone to make financial decisions and manage financial accounts for you while you are still living but if you are unable to do so (i.e. – if you are in the hospital). Advance Directives forms may be found online by searching for your state’s specific Advance Directive, while Power of Attorney documents can be located through online websites and services. Both can also be drafted by Elder Law Attorneys, who can also offer valuable estate planning advice for long term care planning purposes.
If possible, attempt to get an idea of how much parents hold in assets and monthly income as they retire. Often children assume that parents have more or less assets than they actually do, and this makes a significant impact on options that will be available to them as they age.
For more specific tips or guidance, or assistance facilitating these discussions, Geriatric Social Workers or Aging Life Care Experts (formerly known as Geriatric Care Managers) can help. These experts can be located in your area by searching www.aginglifecare.org.
Wendy is a geriatric social worker and Aging Life care expert practicing in Anne Arundel County, MD. Please contact her at 410-834-1452 for further guidance.