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Talking With Parents About End Of Life Wishes

Talking With Parents About End Of Life Wishes

Talking With Parents About End-of-Life Wishes. A How To Guide.

Talking with your parents about what their end-of-life wishes are may seem hard to do. However, if your parent gets sick or injured, they may not be able to tell you what they want. As a result, you may be left to make decisions for them. Also, these decisions can lead to conflict, especially with siblings or other family members involved. Here we offer tips on how you can open a dialogue and what questions to ask. Also, we tell you about the important documents and resources to consider when it comes to end-of-life conversations. 

Have you already hired an Aging Care Manager? If so, that person would be perfect for initiating this delicate conversation. Also she or he can arrange everything, including legal documentation.  

Overcoming the Hesitation to Talk

You might be hesitant to bring up the topic of end-of-life planning out of fear that you’ll say the wrong thing. One way to overcome this hesitation is to share what made you think about end-of life-planning. Maybe you started to think about planning for yourself or read a story about someone who became ill unexpectedly and didn’t have a plan. By opening up a dialogue about these issues in general, it’s easier to start talking about what your parents want.

What Questions to Ask Your Parents

Chances are, your parents have started to think about their end-of-life wishes. But it’s important to understand what those wishes are and what type of planning your parents have, done if any. Some questions you should consider asking include:

“Have you thought about who you want to make medical decisions for you if you’re not able to make them for yourself?”

“Do you know what kind of medical treatment you want if you were to get sick or injured?”

“If you need long-term care, do you want to be cared for at home or would you want to move?”

“Have you thought about creating a will to make sure your final wishes are honored?”

“Do you know who you want to handle your finances if you’re not able to?”

“Have you both created a will, power of attorney, or advanced health care directive?”

Important Documents for End-of-Life


Wills are the most common document that people think about when it comes to end-of-life care. They can give directions for how personal property should be divided up, address how any debts, expenses, and taxes should be handled, and who the beneficiaries are. 

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) gives a designated person or appointed agent the ability to act on their behalf. A general power of attorney would allow you to do things such as pay bills or conduct financial transactions if so designated.

Springing Power of Attorney 

Used for health care, this type of power of attorney authorizes you to make health care decisions for a parent if they are incapacitated and name you as the decision-maker. It should specify what incapacitated means within the document.

Durable Power of Attorney

If your parents create a durable power of attorney, it grants the person that they name to make health decisions or handle financial matters if they are incapacitated.

Advance Health Care Directives

Advanced health care directives are documents that provide specific instructions for medical care if the person cannot make decisions for themselves. The person your parent decides to designate to make health care decisions should also be included in the directive.

Resources for Talking About End-of-Life Wishes

If you want to gather more information before talking with your parents, there are many resources available to you.

Attorney Elizabeth Arnold wrote a book called Creating the Good Will: The Most Comprehensive Guide to Both the Financial and Emotional Sides of Passing on Your Legacy. She guides readers through the step-by-step process of estate planning and emphasizes what people want to pass to their family members beyond possessions.

The Parent Care Conversation: 6 Strategies for Dealing with the Emotional and Financial Challenges of Aging Parents. Dan Taylor’s step-by-step method helps families plan for future care and have honest conversations necessary when it comes to eldercare.

Five Wishes is an online fillable form that helps individuals and families figure out what their end-of-life care preferences are. It was created with the assistance of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging.

It’s not easy to talk about end-of-life wishes. But once you start the conversation, it will become easier to talk about what your parents want and what you need to know. Alternatively, you can hire an Aging Care Manager, who acts as a trusted advisor to the family, and who can discuss delicate topics with your parents. The Aging Care Manager can bring the subject from a professional standpoint and can advise your parents about the need to get their wishes and directives in order. Visit AgingCare.io to learn more and to find help. 

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