End-of-Life Planning with Parents

Last modified: March 30, 2022
Estimated reading time: 2 min

Death is one of the most difficult topics to discuss with loved ones. As difficult as it may be, talking to your parents and family about end-of-life planning is essential if you want to avoid pain and anxiety in the event of a catastrophe.

While a lot of adults believe it is necessary to talk about end-of-life care desires with their family, only few have done so, according to a survey. The majority of people — one in every five – ignore the topic entirely for fear of offending their loved ones.

Tips for Starting the Conversation About End-of-Life Planning

We don’t want to think of our parents or anyone we care about passing away. However, suffering is an inevitable part of life, and everyone must be prepared for it. You and your loved ones must be on board by having a meaningful discussion about end-of-life planning so that the entire family is involved in the decision-making process.

Here are some suggestions to get you started with the conversation:

1. Prepare — Consider how and when you will bring up the matter. Perhaps you could discuss it while the entire family is together, such as over the holidays. Being prepared and knowing exactly what you want to say will help everyone in a difficult scenario.

2. Begin the Conversation — To break the ice, say you’d want to talk about something that’s bothering you. Perhaps you’ve experienced or heard of a recent life-altering tragedy, such as a friend’s death or an acquaintance’s untimely illness. You can use this as a starting point for a dialogue. Relate how the loss or illness has made you consider your parents’ mortality and what they would desire if they were still alive.

3. Be Sensitive — Of course, the point of the conversation is to arrange for your parents’ or loved ones’ end-of-life care. Rather than bombarding them with “you need to do this” and “you need to do that” remarks, try a more delicate approach. Inquire about their hopes and dreams. Keep your cool. It’s important to remember that this is about them and what they desire.

Talk about “What if” scenarios –It’s not a bad idea to outline a few possible outcomes so you will be prepared for these scenarios. For example, if your mother or father becomes incapacitated and is unable to make financial or medical treatment decisions for themselves, knowing whom they choose to make decisions on their behalf will certainly avoid arguments amongst siblings, which is the last thing you need to deal with if they are in the hospital and decisions must be made right away. Alternatively, if your parents pass away without leaving a Will, the court will take possession of their estate, divide it up, and decide who will inherit the assets. This could result in a legal struggle as well as familial discord or turmoil.

Questions to Ask (Examples)

“Have you considered making a Will? If something happens to you, I want your final desires to be carried out.”

“If you can’t make your own medical decisions, whom do you want to make them for you?” 

“What kind of therapies would you want or not want if you become seriously or terminally ill?”

“Would you trust someone to look after your funds if you became ill?”

“Have you considered what kind of long-term care you’d prefer if the need arose?”

“Would you prefer to be resuscitated or have life support?”

“What financial or health-related issues or thoughts do you have that we should be aware of?”

“How do you feel about us assisting you in the creation of an estate plan?”

Now is the time to talk about end-of-life planning.

Parents want to leave their children with a legacy. Make having an end-of-life plan a part of your legacy. Don’t put off having an end-of-life conversation with your parents until an emergency arises. A comfortable, intelligent discussion will assist you, your parents, and your loved ones in making the best decisions now rather than later when faced with a crisis.

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