14 Essential Questions to Ask Aging Parents This Holiday

Thanksgiving is a time when many families come together. About 45 percent of adults surveyed said they planned to travel for the holiday, per The Vacationer.

Posted on November 27, 2023

With multiple generations gathering around the table, the annual meal presents an opportunity to broach sensitive but important topics with your aging loved ones. By communicating with them and knowing their wishes, you can help them plan for their future.

Key Considerations in Aging

Understanding how the older adults in your life feel about certain issues – such as where they want to live and what kind of care they would like to receive as they continue to age – can help you provide appropriate support. Having these discussions can also help your loved ones reflect on their goals and consider making plans before there is a crisis.

If your family member still needs to meet with an estate planner, you can also suggest taking this step. Connect them with a qualified elder law or estate planning attorney in their area.

According to Caring.com’s 2023 Wills and Estate Planning Survey, two out of three Americans have yet to make an estate plan and do not have any estate planning documents. Such documents can include a will, power of attorney, portable medical order, or advance directive. Barriers to estate planning include procrastination and not believing one has enough assets.

Yet, while we often think of estate planning as making wills and determining who receives assets, it is an integral part of preparing for old age. It encompasses housing and long-term care, financial planning, medical care, and insurance. Creating an estate plan involves making decisions about how people would like to live and receive care as they age.

Most people could benefit from this type of planning (no matter what their age). Talking with your loved ones can be an initial step to help them develop a plan that preserves their autonomy in old age.

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      What to Discuss With Your Older Loved Ones

      As the holidays get underway, prompt your family members to start thinking about their future. You may encourage them to consider the following topics and questions.
      Housing Options
      AARP reports that 77 percent of adults 50 and older want to age in place instead of moving into senior living. Yet remaining at home poses safety concerns for many families, according to the National Institute on Aging.

      Older adults may eventually need help with activities of daily living (ADLs), household tasks, mobility, meals, health care, and transportation. Families may be able to provide caregiving or explore in-home services. Others may choose assisted living.

      The following questions may help to spark meaningful discussions between you and your aging loved ones.

      1. Where do they want to live? Do they want to live at home as they get older, or would they prefer to reside in a senior living community?
      2. If they would like to stay at home, is the residence adaptable to any potential mobility difficulties they may face down the road?
      3. What kind of additional support might they need?
      4. Who will help with their activities of daily living and household chores such as preparing meals or cutting the grass?

      Health Care Preferences
      Health challenges often accompany aging. According to the National Council on Aging, 95 percent of adults 60 and older have at least one chronic condition.

      As the seventh leading cause of death worldwide, dementia affects many older adults, per the World Health Organization. The National Institute of Health reports that one in seven Americans age 71 and older have dementia.

      Older adults should think about and communicate their health care wishes with their families before an adverse health event occurs. The following questions can help families begin these difficult discussions.

      1. Do they have a power of attorney or living will, or are they planning to create one?
      2. What would make life continue to be worthwhile for them if they were to become frail, ill, or develop dementia?
      3. Would they want medical care to prolong their life if they have a terminal, incurable illness?
      4. If they fell ill, would they prefer to pass away at home in hospice or in a medical setting?

      Stay updated on how to protect everything you’ve worked for so hard during your life.

        Personal Values
        Having a clear picture of what someone would value most at the end of their life can help families provide support. Erik Erickson’s stage theory of psychosocial development suggests that older adults living in line with their personal values may feel peace, wisdom, and acceptance.

        Physical and cognitive decline associated with aging can jeopardize autonomy. This is why knowing your loved ones’ values and wishes can help you more effectively support their independence. They should have a plan in place for end-of-life decisions so that, if necessary, you or another surrogate decision-maker can make choices that reflect their wishes.

        These questions present a good starting point.

        1. What does your loved one believe they will come to value most as they grow older?
        2. Is religious or community involvement important?
        3. What do they define as a good life?
        4. What do they feel would be most essential to them in their final years?
        5. What kind of funeral or memorial service would they envision for themselves?
        6. Have they thought about passing certain sentimental items, such as photo albums and jewelry, to certain family members?

        Consult With an Estate Planning Attorney

        As you and your loved ones work together to begin addressing these topics, they might consider consulting with a local, qualified elder law or estate planning attorney. An attorney can help create the framework for autonomy in old age, working with the adult to develop a plan.

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