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Though it’s something many people put off, it’s important to have a candid family discussion about your aging parents’ wishes. By doing so, you will help ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to their medical care, financial matters, and legal decisions. Since sitting down with loved ones to discuss these issues can be uncomfortable, it helps to start these conversations early—ideally, while your parents are still in good health—so that they’re hypothetical, rather than crisis-driven.
Where to start? Explain to your parents that you’re concerned about them and that you want to take good care of them, as they get older. Respect your parents’ desire to maintain a sense of independence and control over their lives by presenting various options for their care or money management and listening to their preferences. While you and your siblings may not always agree with your parents’ choices, recognize that it may be best to heed their wishes—unless, of course, they’re not mentally competent to make such decisions or their health or their safety is in jeopardy.
If your parents don’t know much about certain medical, financial, or legal options that are available to them, you can help by seeking out the right information and providing it to them. After they’ve reviewed the information or you’ve done so together, talk with them again about these issues. The key is to keep the communication lines open and to re-evaluate your aging parents’ needs and options as they change.
If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s this: Caring for an aging parent is a fluid, evolving process, not a static one, so it’s wise to handle the conversations and decisions that involve them with flexibility, patience, and respect. Remember that while getting older can bring great wisdom and enjoyment, it can also bring a sense of loss—of health, mobility, beloved friends, and independence. So one of the most helpful things you can do is reassure your parents that you’ll be there for them, offering love and assistance every step of the way.