Have you had a conversation with your parents regarding what they want to do if one of them needs extended care? Will they stay at home? Who will take care of them? I know it may be difficult to ask these difficult questions but the holidays may be good time to begin the conversation. You don’t want to wait until they have a medical crisis before you start planning. No one makes good decisions when they are under a lot of stress.
So how do you begin the process? Here are my suggestions to get the ball rolling:
Go to the website www.agingwithdignity.org
Download a copy of the Five Wishes Document.
Complete the document for yourself. It will force you to make a lot of decisions regarding how you want to be treated if you become critically ill.
Sign the Five Wishes document and have two witnesses sign it. If you are in one of 42 states this now becomes a legal health care proxy and living will. (Check the website for those states where the form is not legal.)
Make several copies of the document and save the original in a protected place.
Share the document with your spouse and children and make sure they know where the original is.
When you visit with your parents over the holidays share your completed Five Wishes document with them. Tell them what the experience was like filling it out.
Leave blank copies of the Five Wishes for each of your parents and suggest that they might want to complete them.
Check in with you parent a few weeks later to see if they have completed the forms. If not set up a time to review the forms with them and help them fill it out.
This process is a painless way to open up the conversation regarding your parents’ wishes for their care. You don’t have to ask them the questions directly. The form provides you with the tools to gather the important information. You just ask your parents to read the questions on their own and answer them privately when they are ready. And the process of planning their future care has begun!