It’s a difficult subject, to be sure, but for those who are open to discussing our mortality with loved ones, including adult children, there are unexpected benefits. Earlier generations didn’t struggle with these unpleasant topics, but much of that can be credited to shorter lifespans and harder lifestyles. The chores our grandparents did as kids, and we’ve all heard those stories of “getting up before 5 a.m. to collect the eggs and then walking five miles to school”, are the very ones that most of us wouldn’t be able to do in an entire day. Now that we’re living longer and enjoy lower odds of dying from diseases and accidents, it seems death is no longer a welcomed topic. It should be, though.
Discussing Our Mortality
The Conversation Project, a public education campaign founded to encourage open discussion about end of life matters, reports that up to 90 percent of Americans are open to the conversations, but are leery about actually starting the conversation. Interestingly enough, only 30 percent of families have discussed with elderly loved ones those end of life considerations.
The survey showed that of the 2,000 respondents, one third of them say end of life topics aren’t a priority. The vast majority of that group say it’s too uncomfortable and don’t wish to upset their elderly parents. However, nearly all say they wouldn’t shy away from the conversation. This suggests the struggle is found in the first few minutes of these types of discussions.
If we’re the older parents, discussing our mortality is something we’re sure would only upset our children and grandchildren. If we’re the adults, of course, we don’t want to upset Mom and Dad. So the topic hangs, unnecessarily, until we’re forced to face it. It shouldn’t be that way, though.
Our Final Wishes
If you can get past those first few statements and actually get the conversation rolling, you’re able to really understand what Dad’s final wishes are. One way to open this subject is to ask if he has a living will or if he’s named someone as a medical power of attorney. These end of life directives are very important. Other ways you can bring it up:
- Explain to your loved one that you just bought life insurance. That can be the opening that allows Mom to say, “Since we’re talking about it, how about I tell what kind of plans I have in place?”
- Call a family meeting. This shouldn’t be a “surprise” meeting or else it feels like an intervention of some type and will surely put Mom on the defensive. Instead, remind Mom that the family loves her and wants to be sure to honor her in death as they have in life. “If it’s alright with you, I’d like for the family to get together this weekend so that we can be sure we have all the tools we need to honor your wishes.”
- If you’re assisting a loved one with Medicare or Medicaid coverage, those topics will come up anyway as these processes require details. Use that as your start point.
- Finally, if you’re comfortable with it, simply ask. “Dad, have you and Mom discussed your preferences for… burial, funeral, memorials, etc.”? You might also ask if they’ve spoken to their estate planning lawyer recently. This often opens the door to get that important discussion moving.
At some point, though, these discussions will need to happen. There are end of life directives, wills, trusts, living wills and a host of other important documents that will not only ensure your loved ones’ final wishes are met, but your family isn’t left wondering if they made the right decision. To learn more about elder law and estate planning, contact our offices today.