Having ‘The Talk’ with mom and dad in your 40’s can be just as uncomfortable as it was when you were in your teens. The topic is different now – but still fraught with all kinds of unexpressed emotions. I’m referring to the talk about ‘aging in place’, health care directives, powers of attorney and what happens when your parents can no longer care for themselves.
Having ‘The Talk’, though, is an essential rite of passage. It really marks the point in life when you face the knowledge of your parent’s mortality. Speaking openly about cares and concerns as parents age is especially critical if dementia should strike mom or dad. Dementia is such a challenging disease. It seems to sneak up slowly and strike unexpectedly. In Carol Lange’s case it came with the unexpected hospitalization of her mother. She was told that her mother had dementia and, unless she had 24-hour care in place, the doctors wouldn’t send her home. As the only child in the city, she ended up shouldering the care and decisions for her mother. Since she had no power of attorney, she had to apply to the court to make decisions on her mother’s behalf.
Ensuring that parents have made plans and knowing where to access the documents is important. You don’t have to know what’s in the will, but you do need to know where to find it. If you are named as Power of Attorney for health or property, you should be aware of what events trigger the implementation of the document. You also need to have a general understanding of what your mom or dad wants in terms of care. This knowledge helps everyone in the family make good care decisions.
We had ‘The Talk’ as a family two years ago, sitting around the campfire at the family cottage. It was the first time we had all been together in years and my parents took the opportunity to tell us of their plans and wishes. It was helpful and comforting to know that they had thought through some scenarios. We know we can’t plan for everything, but we all walked away with a pretty good idea of what mom and dad would want, so when that day comes, we will be able to honour their wishes to the best of our abilities.