When families gather for the holidays, talk may not naturally turn to long-term care and financial documents, but it should, say experts featured on BeSmartBeWell.com/Caregiving. Too often, families don’t discuss financial matters and healthcare wishes of aging relatives until there is a crisis, and then it may be too late. The holidays – when family members are all gathered in one place – are a good time to talk to aging parents about planning for the future.
“It’s a hard conversation, but such an important one, because the more you’ve talked together, the better prepared you are,” says Elinor Ginzler, author of the AARPguidebook Caring For Your Parents and one of the experts featured on the site.
In a series of videos, you’ll hear more of her advice, and see how Chris and Ann got their parents the help they needed by being proactive and working together.
The earlier the better
Even if aging relatives are healthy and still independent, it’s a good idea to have the conversation. In fact, it’s the best time for such a discussion, experts say.
“Talk to your parents early on, before the needs become excessive and substantial. If you’re a 40-year-old person, and you’re not providing much care for your 70-year-old relative yet, talk with them now,” advises Jane Potter, MD, Chief of Geriatrics and Gerontology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Be a partner, not a know-it-all
Experts agree – there is a right way and a wrong way to talk to aging loved ones about the future. If children come across as too bossy and controlling, parents may bring the conversation to a quick end.
It’s important to emphasize that early planning will actually put aging loved ones in the driver’s seat. “Say to your parents: ‘Tell us what kind of setting you want to live in, what kind of care you want to receive, who it is you want to be giving this care,’” Ginzler says. “Reassure them, ‘I don’t want to take over your finances, but I want to make sure that if you’re ever in a position where you can’t handle your finances, you’ve figured out who it is you want to be your agent under those circumstances.’ It is a different way of thinking about this.”
Where to begin?
If only one thing comes out of a holiday talk, it should be agreement on advanced directives.
“The two basic documents that everyone should have are powers of attorney for financial matters and a power of attorney for healthcare,” says Larry Magill, founder of The Center for Elder Law Solutions. Magill, who advises seniors on long-term care issues, is featured in the video Caregiving: What Can I Do About It.
Power of attorney documents appoint a trusted person to act as a proxy to make medical, financial and/or legal decisions on behalf of an ill or confused person. Without these documents, families may waste valuable time seeking court approval to make important medical decisions on behalf of their loved one.
Often, in families like Chris and Ann’s, the responsibilities are shared. “As far as making a decision for me being Power of Attorney and Ann being Power of Health, it was fairly straightforward,” recalls Chris in his video story, “We talked to Dad and he just looked at Ann and me and said, ‘Whatever you guys decide.’”
Learn More BeSmartBeWell.com/Caregiving provides practical information about preparing for and managing the demands of caregiving. The website includes:
>>Interviews with leading health experts
>>Real-life stories of people helping aging and dependent loved ones
>>A quiz to see how much you know about caregiving
>>Reputable resources and links for more information
At the site, visitors can also sign up for the bimonthly Spotlight Newsletter and biweeklyNews Alerts for in-depth articles and breaking news on caregiving and other important health topics.