This post comes from our guest blogger Lori Bitter, Founder of The Business of Aging consulting firm.
“We have so many awkward and sometimes funny conversations with our children. Do you remember the first conversation about a boyfriend or girlfriend? The first time someone in the family passed away and you had to explain death to a child? Or the big talk about sex? The one before they walk down the aisle? Or their fears about raising children of their own? It doesn’t really matter how old your kids are, some conversations are hard!
As we get older, these conversations tend to change. They become more about our life changes than theirs – but these are incredibly important conversations too. And sometimes, just as awkward!
Making your wishes known
Perhaps the hardest topic to broach with adult children is what we want at the end of life. It is also the important conversation that can lessen the emotional burden on our kids. It sounds funny to say, but start at the “end” and work forward. Where do you want your final resting spot to be? Have you prepaid those expenses or planned for them? Have you chosen a burial or cremation? Are all of those documents collected in one place, and do your adult children know where that is?
This conversation frequently becomes teary, because kids don’t like to think about their parents’ mortality. But having these details nailed down for them when the time comes is ultimately an amazing gift for them.
What about your will?
So much family angst, even in the most loving families, revolves over “who gets what.” Often it isn’t the big things like money, but the small sentimental items – Dad’s watch, Grandma’s tea set, Mom’s favorite earrings. The worst thing you can do to your loved ones is leave them to decide for themselves after you’re gone. Talking about the sentimental things that have meaning to each of your adult children and making a record of this in your will is the best way to handle it. Some people go a step further and tag or label items – just to be sure it’s clear.
Your attorney can help you figure out how to divide the financial and physical assets of your estate and make sure your children know where a copy of your will is kept and what to do. You certainly don’t have to disclose the contents, but giving your kids even a brief overview of what to expect can provide some peace of mind before the will needs to be used.
Where will you live?
The data is clear: 90% of adults say they will live in their own home as long as possible. It’s what everyone hopes for. But there may become a time when you need help that is beyond the services of home-based care. Have you discussed this period of your life with your children? You may have an agreement with one of your children to move in when you can no longer care for yourself, or you may have a desire to go to a specific assisted living community if necessary. Talking this through before you have a significant health event is critical.
Don’t forget healthcare!
Until we’ve experienced a significant health care event, most of us haven’t come in contact with Advance Directives, Living Wills, Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney. (These forms may vary by country, province and state.) This is where you decide who should make health care decisions for you should you be incapacitated. You can determine the types of life support treatments you wish to have or not have to prolong your life – like ventilators, feeding tubes, transfusions, dialysis, etc.
You’ll also choose whether you want a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) or to donate your organs. This involves more than filling out paperwork and is an important conversation to have with the person you designate so they truly understand what you want. Sharing that with your broader family helps to ensure that your designee doesn’t have to carry the full weight of those decisions on their shoulders alone. It’s easy to keep all your important documents online in one secure place, like Onist’s vault, so those you want to give access to can easily find your wishes.
Choosing to have these conversations while you are healthy and have no issues is the best possible time. Even if it feels a little awkward to start these conversations with your adult children, everyone benefits. It opens the door for them to think about these decisions for themselves and gives you and them the peace of mind of knowing these details are taken care of.”