Just as your parents had to have ‘those talks’ with you growing up, there is a reciprocal duty as they enter their golden years. If you are over forty and are fortunate enough to still have your parents around, there are conversations that you need to have with them… and the sooner, the better. This is because planning for certain events as they age is crucial; like any good plan, the sooner you put it into action, the better it is for all parties. None of these conversations is particularly easy to have — which is why most children avoid having them — yet they are truly a gift for everyone involved.

The three specific issues listed below are, in reality, closely related and often closely intertwined; they likely should, however, be raised individually. They are:

  • Their wishes for their retirement living.
  • Their wishes regarding dignified dying.
  • Their wishes for their final arrangements – funeral services, cemetery arrangements, etc.

These are not issues to be left to the last moment, yet unfortunately, it is all too common. Deciding on a retirement residence should not be done after Mom has fallen at home and broken her pelvis. Deciding on a dignified death should not be made when a parent suffers a severe stroke and is laying in a coma at the hospital. And making funeral arrangements and buying property should definitely not be done a day after a parent has passed suddenly.

Like any good plan, the sooner you put it into action, the better it is for all parties.
Focusing on the first issue, as it is (hopefully) the first one a parent will deal with, it reveals itself to be a complex topic indeed. So what are their plans when they sell their ‘life home’.

Assuming they have the luxury (good health, strong finances, suite availability, etc.) of choosing an independent living retirement community, there are a myriad of choices that, if they haven’t planned well for them, could run them out of funds before they run out of need. If they require assisted living and staying their life home is no longer feasible, it gets even more complicated. There are still privately-funded assisted-living residence options, but often we see parents forced into the public system of subsidized care facilities because they have failed to plan adequately for this stage. When you have to deal with special health challenges like levels of dementia or Altzheimer’s, it places a particular strain on the family, as options become more limited.

In my experience, every situation in unique, making it impossible to tell everyone what to do… except have the conversation. Get your folks talking about their wishes, their desires and their realities regarding the emotional, mental, physical and financial ramifications of this stage of their lives.

You’ll be giving both parties a magnificent gift!