As you get together with aging relatives this holiday season, or even as you see yourself and your siblings getting older, you probably know that there are questions you need to ask and things you need to know. If you have ever wondered where to start, here are an on-line and an off-line resource to get you started.
- Do you feel comfortable about your financial situation? Would a financial planner be helpful?
- Do you have an estate plan?
- Who should handle your finances if you become ill?
- In the event you become seriously ill, what sort of interventions would you like?
- Do you have enough health insurance?
- Do you feel your doctor is well informed about the issues facing older patients?
- Can we help make your home more comfortable?
- Are you feeling secure about driving?
- Can you share your thoughts about your funeral?
- Can you compile a list of all your important information?
Even if the answers to these questions is "I don't know" in the beginning, it's important to keep talking about it over time. And be sure to bring in professionals where needed - attorneys to review and draft estate plans, financial planners to help make financial decisions, contractors to make modifications to the home, etc.
A great off-line tool for working through these questions is Susan Piver's book The Hard Questions for Adult Children and Their Aging Parents. The book has a chapter for you and your siblings to work through, and then has questions for you to ask your parents about their personal and family history, their finances, their legal issues and possessions, their health care and quality of life issues, and their spirituality.
Remember, you don't need to pounce on your parents with all of these questions at once. These are conversations that can take place over time in the kitchen before dinner, while working together in the garden, while driving to an appointment or while taking a walk. At some point you may want to all sit down together to review finances or legal paperwork, but the main thing is to start the conversation and then take the necessary steps that arise.
See my related post: More Questions to Ask Your Aging Parents.