Family time and reminiscing about the years gone by are oftentimes accompanied by memories that bring a smile to our faces and hearts; those special moments of reflections at our different life stages - all the happy memories, good times and the sad ones. The times we've shared with family and friends during life's key milestones: special birthdays, family reunions or weddings. But let's face it, like most families, when it comes to the truly tough topics, we prefer to avoid the hard hitting stuff and push it aside until a later date. I have experienced this situation with close friends, parents, siblings and other relatives.
The reality is that there are conversations that as adult children we need to have with our aging parents, as difficult as these conversations can be for both parties. We cannot wait to postpone "the talk" until we find ourselves confronted by a health crisis that may impede our aging parents from communicating their end of life wishes. It gets even more complicated when siblings have their own preconceived notions of what needs to get done during an already highly stressful time. As has happened in many families, some siblings impose their desires upon other members of the immediate family without even considering what the parents may have voiced at any given time during a casual conversation, but failed to put in writing. Without a doubt, things can get complicated really quickly under these circumstances.
Today more adult children are assuming the role of caregiver to a parent. In many instances they deal with stressful situations that have the potential to take a harder toll on them than expected. That is why it becomes increasingly important to consider having that very necessary and important "talk" with our parents. There is no denying that as Latinos, we tend to live in the moment. But this does not preclude the fact that we should stop for a moment to plan ahead, especially to ensure that our parents' desires for end-of-life wishes are met with a well-documented estate plan. This planning will also provide them peace of mind in knowing that their children will not be burdened with heavy decisions that must be made. The longer it takes to have the conversation with your parents, the more difficult it can become to put the plans into action for anyone faced with making these decisions.
At the present time, knowing I have the answers to most of the questions below gives me a great sense of relief, and I encourage everyone to discuss these questions with your loved ones:
Is there a living will in effect?
Is there a will? Who is the executor of the estate?
What to do for funeral arrangements?
Is there a separate fund set aside to help take care of all of this?
Hopefully, you will find a moment to discuss these questions before your aging parents reach a hospital bed and the stress takes over. As disheartening as the matter may be, it is important to be prepared. Ideally, friends and family will be prepared as well. It can be scary, and there may be some apprehension in broaching the subject with your parents, but start preparing by having small conversations. AARP has some great resources available to help you initiate this very important conversation.
For a better insight on how to initiate your conversation, I encourage you to view our video discussion. If you have questions about estate planning, AARP has some great tips for you to check out as well, and for more information on Caregiving, please visit our website www.aarp.org/caregiving (also available in Spanish).
Remember: As a caregiver you advocate to provide your loved ones with the best possible care, and in all likelihood, you will create and influence the best manner in which they will want to be remembered. Then we can rest assured that when we have family gatherings during those special life milestones they will be peaceful, harmonious and with the joy of remembering times shared. Being a caregiver has also taught me the importance of planning for my own caregiving needs, so while you are having the conversation with your relatives, think about what you need to put in place for yourself. Now is the time to plan ahead.