Aging Parents: Discussing End-of-Life Issues

Discussing end-of-life issues with aging parents is uncomfortable for so many. Several previous posts discuss this, focusing on various aspects. For example, “Aging Parents, Adult Children: Control and End-of-Life Issues” (9/10/10) points out some of the reasons these discussions don’t happen:

1. Denial on the part of parents and children (note: denial is an unconscious mechanism that keeps us from dealing with something until we are ready)
2. consciously not wanting to face the inevitable
3. superstition (if we talk about it, it may happen)
4. keeping children clueless (maintains parental control).

Dad was in his mid-80’s. We needed to have this kind of conversation which I had thought about for quite a while. The question was how to begin. I don’t remember exactly how I ultimately broached the subject, but after Mother began having tia’s I managed to do it.

Fortunately the Wall Street Journal has just paved the way for such a discussion in an article aimed at older people, The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die (July 2, 2011). (Children in their 50’s are used in the examples.) It is helpful, excellent information for aging parents. And therein lies our opportunity–or at least step one.

Our senior advisor, RHW, Esq., reviewed the article, thought it was very well done and offered one addition.  The article lists will, revocable trust, and “letter of instruction” as “The Essentials.” While the Durable Financial Power of Attorney is mentioned as an “also” in the essentials paragraph, it is not an “also” in his opinion.

He emphasizes “more than anything else the Durable Financial Power of Attorney can prevent the courts from having to appoint a guardian or conservator–an expensive and often cumbersome procedure.” It is essential in giving parents control over who has this financial power and should be a 4th “essential.”  You could mention this to parents for starters–or not.

A discussion about wills etc. needn’t take place the moment we hand parents the WSJ article or (if they’re WSJ subscribers) ask them if they’ve read it. We’ll can feel confident however, that after reading it, they’ll have good information at their fingertips.

Updated: And if the above isn’t enough, click this worthwhile UTube presentation taken from the American Bar Association website:

Isn’t helping parents get their affairs in order a part of helping parents age well? ……And we’ll also know we’ve opened the door for future discussions.