Baby Boomers and Aging Parents – Six Tips to Prepare For Their Care
Although there is some debate over the exact age range of the Baby Boom generation, the US Census Bureau identifies most Boomers as those who were born between the years 1956 to 1965. In any case, whether you were born within that time frame or fairly close to it, chances are you are beginning to deal with end-of-life issues regarding your elderly parents. Your many considerations run the gamut from the practical to the spiritual and everything in between. So, where do you begin?
Caregivers. Imagine if we ended our lives as babies, completely dependent on a caregiver tending to all of our needs: loving us, feeding us, changing our diapers. Imagine now that we are not as cute as little babies but still have the same need to be cared for gently with love and respect. Who would you want to take care of you in this situation? Who do your parents want to care for them? This question should be posed directly to your parents. Don’t assume you know the answer. What they may have said 10 to 15 years ago may not still hold true today as they are closer to facing their mortality.
Finances. As we know, in our society it’s considered impolite to ask someone about their finances. Many adult children hesitate to inquire about the exact state of their parents’ finances for fear that their parents will think that the real questions is about potential future inheritance money. But it’s extremely important to have an honest discussion about finances at this point in life. First of all, you need to know if your parents have long-term care insurance. This is the only type of insurance that pays for future assistance that may be needed in the performance of activities of daily living. And, as the name implies, it helps cover the cost of long-term care usually for an undetermined length of time. Long-term care insurance combined with your parents’ net worth, any financial assistance from family, and personal preferences will all factor in to determining where and how your parents live out their final years.
Memoirs. The written word is a way for us to live on beyond this lifetime. Encourage your parents to share their unique stories on paper. My great grandfather actually typed his life story and had it bound in leather and embossed in gold leaf. My brother, sister, and I cherish it and each wish we had our own copy.
Legal Instruments. A living trust is a very important instrument for any family with assets to bequeath. Its main purpose is to avoid probate. Much of a family’s estate can be lost through probate; setting up a living trust is a way to prevent such a loss. It is best to hire an attorney to set up a living trust tailored to your family’s specific needs.
The next consideration is to find out to whom your parents have given or intended to give power of attorney. Power of attorney assigns power to an individual to act on your behalf to handle all of your legal and business matters in the event that you are unable to do this for yourself.
Lastly, an advance directive is a legal instrument prepared in advance by an individual. It gives health care instructions to your care providers in the event you are unable to conduct such matters on your own. A living will, power of attorney, health care proxy, and Five Wishes are all forms of an advance directive.
Possessions. A Last Will and Testament is the instrument to be prepared by your parents to assign care for their dependents, if any. This can include pets as well. Also, this is the legal mechanism through which they can identify one or more persons to manage their estate and provide instructions for the distribution of their personal possessions. This includes everything from real estate and expensive jewelry to the simplest sentimental items. Funeral and burial instructions can also be outlined here. Although this is a legal document, completing one can give great comfort to your parents, giving them control and certainty over one aspect of their lives.
Final Messages. Encourage your parents to write letters to each of their children if they feel comfortable doing so. Some families even make audio or video recordings of their elders. It can be about anything – a full life story, funny anecdotes, family stories, or loving good-byes to each of their children. My husband’s grandmother came to this country from Armenia and she recounted her tumultuous life on CD. He cherishes it and plans to share it with our children when they are older.
Your parents are entering a time of life where many people feel particularly vulnerable. This can be especially difficult for parents who are used to being in charge and may not be comfortable at all with the reversal of roles. Please keep that in mind as you gather information from them and help them create a plan for the future. If done tactfully and respectfully, this time of life can bring you closer to your parents than ever before.
Katie B. Marsh is co-author of The Birth of Dying: A Sensitive Workbook to Help You Broach and Explore End-of-Life Issues with Your Terminally Ill or Elderly Loved One http://BooksForSharing.com/