Pre-planning Discussions With Your Parents
I’m yet to meet a family that finds the topics we are about to deal with easy going. It’s what makes aged care such an emotional area, full of taboos like money and death. But sticking our heads in the sand is not an option. At some point we really must sit down with our parents or loved ones to talk about their wishes, however tough that conversation is going to be for everyone involved. As they say, ‘structure liberates’, so here is a list of conversation starters to help make sure your parents and loved ones wishes are clear to the family.
Do they have an EPOA (Enduring Power of Attorney)?
Without getting bogged down in legalese an EPOA is a person/s formally authorised to complete personal or financial matters on behalf of a loved one, if they lose the capacity to make those decisions or transactions for themselves. This is something that can’t just be agreed verbally, an EPOA form must be completed. Each state has its own process surrounding EPOA and their associated authorisations in Australia. Without an EPOA, your family may be forced to bring the matter to the courts to be granted the powers they need to take care of a loved one.
Do they have an Advance Health Directive?
This is the really difficult stuff to talk to your parents or loved ones about, and there’s no easy way to bring up end of life choices. If they haven’t completed an Advance Health Directive, urge them to do so. It gives them control over their future health care once they are unable to make those decisions for themselves and saves family members the stress of guessing what their loved ones wishes would be in different circumstances. The form is freely available online and can be updated at any time.
Do they have a Will?
Another tricky area to cover, but again one that’s very necessary to talk about with your loved ones. Even if your parent/s feel they have very little money or assets to bequeath, knowing exactly who gets what can stop a lot of angst in families. It’s amazing how quickly squabbles arise over what may seem like minor possessions when no clear benefactor has been named. There are will kits available on the Internet, however we will always recommend you seek advice from a legal professional. Sadly around half of all Australians die without a Will, which means grieving families must endure a court process in order to be given the power to distribute money and possessions.
What are their funeral wishes?
Without wanting to sound strange, this can actually be a conversation that can be surprisingly pleasant if approached the right way. I think many people have spoken to their families about a favourite song they’d like played at their funeral, or perhaps something very special they’d like on their coffin, even an outfit or piece of jewellery they want to take with them. It’s a conversation in which everyone can contribute their wishes, not just your parents and have a few laughs over their music choices, or the reason why that song or dress is special to them. Maybe they’ve been to a funeral they loved or hated. Ask them about it, and why they felt that way about another’s send off. It’s an ideal way to start the conversation. Their funeral is a celebration of their life after all, it’s their final party, and you want to get it right!
Are there specific Nursing homes they don’t wish to go into?
This one is going to be pretty black and white. But it’s probably not high on the list of topics that a lot of families think to talk about when it comes to aged care. A quick chat about which homes they’ve heard good things about, or if they have friends who might already been living in a home that they’d like to join for companionship. Take notes after the chat as a reminder of which places got the tick of approval from your parents. Seems like a small thing, but when the time comes its one less decision that needs to be made.
What are their assets and income – how they can keep these in a secure place for when the time comes?
So perhaps your parents may not want to tell you right now what they’ve got sitting in the bank, and they don’t have to, so long as they’ve taken care of this task, and made a detailed list of their assets and income. Once they’ve left the family home and downsized, a lot of valuable assets may no longer have a home and could need to be stored or bequeathed early. It’s also worthwhile to get your parents to compile a contacts list of people like their financial advisers, accountants, solicitors and even medical professionals should circumstances change suddenly.
I understand more than most how tough some of these subject areas are to bring up with loved ones and parents. Rather than them feeling overwhelmed they should feel as though taking care of these areas gives them control over their future and what will happen. It also means their families aren’t left with a lot of difficult tasks and conversations at a time when I know they’d rather just be focussed on caring for their loved one.