Thanksgiving and “The Talk”

Thanksgiving isn’t just a great time to visit with family. It’s also a prime opportunity to have important conversations with aging parents. When it comes to planning for the inevitable, the prospect tends to be frightening.

End-of-life conversations. Sounds ominous. It conjures images of final moments on a deathbed. At first blush it sounds like a scary conversation. But maybe not. We have some ideas about how to think about it and how to approach it.

The Long Game

From our perspective, it’s more a matter of years than final moments. We certainly help people think about wills and medical directives, but estate planning covers much more than that.

Robust estate planning helps people answer basic questions about their wishes as they age and after they pass:

  • How and where do you want to live as you age?
  • How do you want to receive care when it’s needed?
  • How do you want to pay for that care?
  • How do you want your resources distributed after you pass?

Easier Than You Might Think

Talking with aging parents about end-of-life issues doesn’t have to be intimidating.

The Conversation Project published a study that encourages us to approach aging parents with more confidence. Their National Survey, conducted in 2018, offers these statistics. According to the survey, the numbers show an increase in the willingness to have these conversations:

  • Over 90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important
  • 32% have done so
  • 21% of people say they haven’t had the conversation because they don’t want to upset their loved ones
  • More than half (53%) say they’d be relieved if a loved one started the conversation
  • 95% say they are willing or want to talk about their end-of-life wishes

These stats are encouraging. You’re fortunate if your parents feel free to talk about these matters, but not everyone is so confident. A more thoughtful approach might be up your alley.

Options, Not Limitations

Make the discussions about options and favorable outcomes. Those conversation are a lot easier to approach.

Adults typically look at aging as though life is becoming more limited. In one sense it’s true. Older adults begin to lack the strength and mental agility to do all the things they want. A SilverSneakers program is a one way to fight back and get a new lease on life. But vitality still diminishes.

Our natural inclination is to hang on to everything and give up nothing. Mowing our lawn and shoveling our own snow make us feel strong. Independent. In control. But it takes its toll. At some point our time is better spent on other activities. It’s not always about giving up and doing “less.” It’s about enjoying life by doing “different.”

When a parent starts slowing down, that’s an opportunity to start asking questions.

What You Want to Find Out

Think in terms of “categories” of information; personal preferences, financial resources, and “trigger” conditions. Basically, you and your parents are looking for answers to the questions we mentioned earlier. You also want to know when to implement the plans, depending on health and vitality. The information gained from your conversations will help you get on a path to a sensible plan.

Consider these sample questions as you think about your conversations.

1) When basic chores (cooking, cleaning, mowing, etc.) get hard, where do you want to live?
a. Stay in your home?
b. Downsize to a smaller residence?
c. Move in with family?
d. Enjoy a senior community?

2) If life gets a lot harder (can’t bathe or take meds properly) where do you want to live?
a. Move to a senior community?
b. Move in with family?
c. Stay at home and utilize in-home services?

3) If you were to move to a senior community, what’s important to you?
a. Quality of food
b. Activities with others
c. Geographic location
d. Chapel services or religious orientation
e. Pet friendly
f. A place where I know people
g. What else?

4) How do you want to pay for care services?
a. Only use services covered by Social Security, pension, etc.?
b. Make use of savings to get a higher standard of care?
c. Make use of long-term care insurance benefits?
d. Work with a qualified attorney to create an asset protection plan?

5) How do you want decisions to be made about your care and resources if you’re not able?
a. Leave it to chance or the court system?
b. Designate decision makers – name Power of Attorneys for Medical & Financial?
c. Work with a qualified attorney to prepare your complete estate plan?

Timing is Critical

Helping families in crisis is one of our specialties. As with most things in life, however, last-minute solutions are less than ideal. We see the great advantages enjoyed by our clients who dream, plan, and act well in advance of a sudden a downturn in health or long-term care emergency.

Advance planning offers the opportunity to think carefully and take advantage of the best options. Instead of being forced into quick decisions, why not make choices long before the circumstances are overwhelming? That tough conversation is made easier when treated like a future that offers a menu of possibilities.

The best solutions are implemented when we have the time to explore personal preferences and blend them with legal and financial planning. Options and preferences are harder to explore when faced with an urgent need. Possibilities become even more limited when testamentary capacity is in question.

Get Your Own Affairs in Order

One way to get aging parents to talk about end-of-life issues is to complete your own estate plan. Ask yourself what you want your final years to look like and how you want to pay for it. Those goals are best achieved when plans are put in motion many years in advance.

How much easier will it be to discuss end-of-life topics with parents if you’ve included them in the conversation about your own plans?

Start the planning process today. Call Quinn Estate & Elder Law at 636-686-6790.