As a general rule, Americans are very uncomfortable talking about end of life issues. We just don’t like to think of the end of our life or the end of our loved one’s life. I get that. But, if there was one message I could get across today it would be this:
By not discussing these issues, you are leaving your future caregivers (most often your adult children), in an impossible position. Many people are completely taken off-guard when their elderly parents start the decline. Because we don’t discuss these issues ahead of time, caregivers are often left unprepared for the life changes they are about to experience. Depending on the speed and amount of decline, a caregiver might have to dedicate a significant portion of their life to the growing needs of their parents.
You can pave the way so that life is easier when the time comes by having the information, authority and the legal documents you need ready in advance. Here are a few other key ways to prepare:
- Have “the talk.” It doesn’t matter if you are the impending caregiver or the person who will need care, you should make time to sit down and talk. This should happen way before the elderly person starts experiencing memory loss, so the sooner the better! You’ll need to discuss the senior’s wants, needs, health issues, financial resources and preferences for the amount of medical intervention you/they want at the end.
- Have legal documents prepared. Work with an estate planning attorney to prepare important legal, financial and healthcare documents. And, keep them updated! Do this immediately if the senior is showing signs of increasing health issues. If you wait until the senior is showing signs of mental decline, they could be declared incompetent to make their own decisions and it will be too late for them to sign any new documents.
- Review financial information. Be sure you review the senior’s financial statements and understand their income and expenses. Knowing how to access this information will be critical to handling their affairs if they are unable.
- Research elder care options. Review the options and determine what living situations the elder person is comfortable with in advance. Determine their preferences for hospital, rehabilitation, nursing home, assisted living and/or independent living communities as well as options for memory care, home care and even hospice.
Having these discussions in advance are uncomfortable, but knowing this information will save more stress and heartache than you can imagine. For additional information on how to prepare for end-of-life transitions, contact our Folsom estate and elder law attorneys at (916) 241-9661.