Previously I shared some thoughts about describing responsibilities as caregivers anticipate the needs of their frail elderly parents. In this entry, I approach the same question, this time from the viewpoint of an older adult who wants to invite adult children—or other caregivers—into a beginning conversation about my possible needs. The following personal observations and experiences come to mind.
How have you started answering this question?
As part of our preparation for older age, my wife and I have continued conversations with our adult children about end-of-life matters. We started these conversations well in advance of our frail years, so our children could be comfortable with this eventuality. Because they are trustees of our family trust and share powers-of-attorney, they will divide the caregiving responsibilities among them.
How have you made the questions easier for them?
Years ago we realized that we ourselves could already answer some of the typical caregiving questions, so set about getting those matters taken care of. When the premiums were affordable–we bought long-term care policies, and have kept them current. This will provide our children with the assurance that, whether at home or in an assisted living facility, our care will be shared with professional caregivers. Our cremation, life insurance and memorial service arrangements are in place and known to our children. We keep them abreast of password changes for all online accounts.
You’ve talked about this?
Yes, off-and-on for years. Another blessing: Because they have been intimately involved with their grandparents’ deaths, our children are emotionally prepared to deal with our deaths, and familiar with end-of-life feelings, and with the tasks that will likely emerge. Our conversations with our children have been matter-of-fact and emotionally satisfying—they know that we have thought through end-of-life matters in order to relieve them of much of the anxiety that can emerge.
Are you still working at some things?
Always. There is always the need to keep information up-to-date and available to them. Thinking about the small-but-important matters that can become large vexations later in life. (My favorite example right now: Where to find the large dumpster that will be necessary for cleaning out this house when we don’t live here anymore!) Even though our children know the special kind of memorial services we intend, at some point we may want to talk together about some other details. Eventually our children will have to hone their in-charge questions down to finer details, more immediate circumstances and existing assets. Another question that will grow important as time goes on: How to help our grandchildren, as they are ready, to become part of the conversation.
Anything else that comes to mind here?
One underlying thought winds through all of this: Loving regard for each other that continues, and shows itself in many other places. That fact probably makes these usually difficult matters—caregiving, end-of-life—part of an overall relationship that we continue to enjoy. In these things we are as much in agreement with each other as we are about our basic values, their lives, world affairs, spirituality and political developments. All our conversations blend together into a much-larger reality of positive and loving regard for each other.
We’re cognizant of these matters because we’ve experienced the deaths of beloved family members and dear friends. We’ve seen how advance preparation—especially heartfelt and honest conversation—can help ease the burden of caregiving in later life.
Most of all, these thoughtful preparations are just another way to show our children how dearly we love them, and how strongly we trust their continuing love for us.