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A Guide To Asking Your Aging Parents End Of Life Questions

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How do adult children address end of life issues with parents who may be extremely private?

More importantly, how do you approach your parents with these kinds of questions long before a health crisis happens?

It helps to have a general idea of questions you can ask casually that might lead to a deeper conversation. If you keep the topic lighthearted, and once again before any serious health issues occur, it will probably be easier for you and your loved one.

Here are some questions you may want to consider for yourself or your loved one.

Answer them openly and honestly. It may start an important discussion about why planning for the future should be a priority today.

1. If I begin to have difficulty with cooking, cleaning and other household responsibilities, I would like to:
a)  Move in with family
b) Remain in my home with home-based services to help me
c)  Other (Specify)

2. If I become unable to bathe myself or take my own medicine, I want to:
a) Move to a residential care facility
b) Move in with family
c) Remain in my home with home-based services to help me
d) Other (Specify)

3. To pay for services I might need, I want to:
a) Use only the services that my pension, Social Security and other regular income can cover.
b) Use some of my savings as well as my pension, Social Security and regular income to cover my expenses
c) Use my savings to ensure my preferences can be met
d) Use my long-term care insurance benefits
e) Do asset protection planning with a certified elder law attorney
f) Other (Specify)

4. If I need to move out of my home, the place I would most like to move is:

5. If I need to move into a residential care facility, the three features that are most important to me are:
a) A place where I can have a private room
b) A place where I can take my pets
c) A place that is close to my family
d) A place where my friends live
e) A place with good food
f) A place with a good reputation in my community
g) A place with a wide range of activities
h) A place with easy access to the outdoors
i) A place with a friendly staff
j) A place affiliated with my faith traditions
k) Other (Specify)

6. As I age, the person I will depend on for support is:

7. The one thing I want my loved ones to remember about my preferences is:

Believe it or not, most parents really do want to have these conversations.

They are typically afraid to initiate it themselves for fear of being a burden to their children. So, if you initiate the conversation, chances are your parents will feel a great sense of relief.

If there is a health crisis and your loved one’s end of life desires have not been explored, here are a few questions that might help you ease into understanding their desires and needs. The answers will also guide you to your next step as caregiver.

1. What is your understanding of where you are and of your illness?
2. Your fears or worries for the future
3. Your goals and priorities
4. What outcomes are unacceptable to you? What are you willing to sacrifice and not?

And later…
5. What would a good day look like?
6. What would a bad day look like?

Questions Are Great Icebreakers

Learning to ask questions of our parents instead of assuming we know the answers is always a gentle way of getting to the bottom of fears. Making easy conversation and asking loving questions that indicate your concern for your parent’s well-being as they age is a good practice. Starting sooner rather than later will establish a foundation for deeper exploration later when health issues arise.