“You will understand when you get older.”
Think back to a time that your parent said that. Maybe you were dealing with a school bully or you were a new parent. These 6 words have been spoken over and over to all of us. And now it’s your turn. No matter how self sufficient your parents are at this moment, they will hopefully be around for a long enough time that they will need some form of help.
And Elder Law is simply about taking care of your parents. Figuring out how they will spend their day-to-day, who will care for them if they need help in the bathroom or really anything at all. It’s hard enough to see our strong parents become less than invincible. One thing that will bring you comfort is knowing they made the choices you are implementing. As long as you start the conversation now, while you still can.
Here’s some dos and don’ts I suggest to get the conversation going:
Come prepared to talk about different options. This means going ahead and visiting different facilities, getting brochures, asking lots and lots of questions. By having the research done ahead of time your conversation will go a lot smoother. Your parents will find comfort in your confidence. Just make sure you come with research, not demands.
Picking up a stack of brochures and leaving them at your parents house is the coward’s way. Cut out all the passive aggressive behavior. This is not picking a summer camp - it’s where your parents will spend the end of their life. They worked hard and they deserve better.
This is one of the major reasons you want to start this conversation as early as possible. Lots of active communities accept residents at only 55! It’s possible your parents want to move out of the family home now so they can focus on having more fun. Or maybe they want to stay in the family home until their last breath. They might assume they are going to live with you. Or they have a whole other idea of what’s next. It’s their plan. This conversation is about you asking them what they want.
You are old enough to know that sometimes parents say things that are applicable to the specific situation and sometimes they say things that are more broad generalizations. If your parents shared an opinion about another person, it could be that opinion was only for that other person. You need to ask your parents about their preferences for themselves. You want to avoid second guessing your decisions down the road when your parents can no longer clarify.
Yes, Elder Law includes things like medical directives and Wills but start the conversation by asking how your mom or dad want to spend a typical Tuesday 5, 10, 15 years from now. Walk them through a visualization exercise. Try to really nail down the picture in their head.
Part of the benefit of talking about this way before your parents need it is to have some breathing room in the finance department. And it also takes some of the emotions out of the equation when it isn’t going to impact a bank account right away. Keep the focus on their ideal situation and go from there.
You know your parents enough to know whether they need some warm up time or if you can tackle this head on. Even if you have a great relationship and your parents are easy to talk to, it’s a lot to digest. There are a lot of moving parts to Elder Law so maybe have a game plan to have one or two conversations a month for 3 months. Put it on your calendar, be prepared with research.
Once these conversations are happening and you have a good picture of what your parents want, talk to a lawyer. Have documents drafted. That will protect your parents from another person or entity swooping in. It will help you protect and provide for your parents and know that you are doing exactly what they want. I cannot impress on you enough what a comfort that will be in the coming years.
Elder Law in all its forms can be an emotionally heavy topic. It’s possibly the first time your parent/child roles are reversed. Every week I hear a client tell me they wish they started this conversation earlier. Give yourself a kudos for being so thoughtful and then get down to work!