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The Conversation You Need to Have

It’s one of the most important conversations that none of us want to have.

The conversation with loved ones about growing older and the chances that we or our spouses are going to need help with the activities of daily living, is something that needs to be talked about before being faced with that situation. It’s difficult at best, says The Des Moines Register in the article “In 2019, resolve to have a difficult conversation,” but very necessary.

The person who is contemplating needing help, may want to start the conversation but the person who may be called on to help may find it too difficult to consider. Who wants to think about their parents getting frail and needing help going to the bathroom? No one.

The person who is starting to feel the impact of aging, may already be aware of some limitations. However, talking with their children or potential caregivers, may change the conversation from “someday” to “soon.” The loss of independence is one of the big milestones, just as gaining independence is a milestone earlier in life. That’s a hard thing to accept for both sides.

Those who have lived through this process of needing to become caregivers, say that it would have been easier, if they would have known what their loved ones wanted. So, would have been knowing what kind of help their loved ones could afford. It’s better to have time to research available resources in advance, rather than operating in crisis mode.

This is what your conversations need to address:

  • Medications, physical health, emotional well-being and health care providers
  • Their wishes, if their health declines slowly or rapidly. Do they want to stay at home? Who would they want to help with daily care?
  • Finances: Can they afford to pay for care at home? Has any Medicaid planning been done? What government programs are they eligible for? Do they have a CPA or financial advisor? 
  • Estate plan: Where is their Last Will and Testament? Is there a Power of Attorney, Living Will or Medical Directive in place? Who is their estate planning attorney? 
  • Documents, including birth certificates, Social Security, insurance cards, safe deposit box keys, computer passwords, etc.

We prefer to think we’ll live a long healthy life and then die peacefully in our sleep, with no advance notice. However, that is not what happens to most Americans. Seven out of 10 people over age 65 will need help from others at some point, and most will need it for at least three years. Therefore, make having this conversation part of your New Year’s resolutions. When the time comes, you and your caregivers will be glad that you did.

Reference: The Des Moines Register (Dec. 19, 2018) “In 2019, resolve to have a difficult conversation”

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