Talking about the reality of death is difficult, but it’s a conversation that needs to happen. Aging parents may dread the discussion. Adult children may dread the discussion. And both may worry about upsetting each other.
While some aging parents’ converse with adult children about assisted living facilities vs. home healthcare, medical decisions, and other matters related to illness and dying; others may not.
“It’s my business!” Some parents may stubbornly refuse to give any financial info to adult children. Think about this situation. We fear the loss of control over our own lives when things drastically change. Address emotions by listening and showing empathy. One day, you’re going to be in their shoes.
According to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, “More than three-quarters of adults ages 65 and older say they’ve talked with their children about their wills; nearly two-thirds say they’ve talked about what to do if they can no longer make their own medical decisions, and more than half say they’ve talked with their children about what to do if they can no longer live independently. Similar shares of adult children of older parents report having had these conversations.”
However, in the same survey, parents and adult children agree that it is the parents, who generally initiate these conversations. Adult children need to emotionally prepare themselves when aging parents initiate the end-of-life discussion.
The following topics need to be addressed: Medicare, Medicaid, and/or health insurance, Social Security benefits, retirement pensions, bank account information, and whereabouts of house deed, birth certificates, and vehicle keys. Who receives power of attorney (POA) if, and when, it’s needed?
Author and physician, Monica Starkman, surmised, “The need to provide care-giving to parents is increasing. With the aging of the Baby Boomers—10,000 turn 65 every day—this trend is certain to continue and escalate. Tens of millions of adult children will one day join the millions of today’s caregivers—who are usually women,” in a 2017 article in Psychology Today.
And upon death of the last surviving parent, the location of the Will is needed. Is it stashed in a safe deposit box? Is there a copy stored with an attorney? Is an executor of the Will named? Who has this vital information?
Funeral arrangements made in advance lessens crisis decisions about which funeral home, what type of casket, and what kind of service. And do your parents want burial or cremation? If burial, where do they want to purchase plots? If cremation, where would they like their ashes scattered? Do they have a burial insurance policy? What if they have debt and no savings?
Many emotionally charged issues can arise among second spouses, biological children, and stepchildren when discussing estate planning and inheritances. The matter usually becomes more complicated with blended families.
Of course, some aging parents may choose to make plans and arrangements without the input of adult children. And instead they may utilize an attorney, sibling, or relative to safely store information until death.
If a parent refuses to discuss end-of-life matters with an adult child, ask him to talk to attorney. Then transport him to the office, and set in the waiting room.
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) shares a plethora of information on their webpage, Funeral Planning: Talk About It Now. www.aarp.org/.
After the end-of-life decisions and plans are made with the paperwork signed and in order, the conversation can go back to activities of daily living.
“The people who pretend that dying is rather like strolling into the next room always leave me unconvinced. Death, like birth, must be a tremendous event.” –J.B. Priestley
Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in southern Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.