Last week we described our recent workshop and named some questions we posed to older parents and their surprising answers. This week we look at the questions and answers for their kids:
1. What is your greatest concern about your parents’ aging process?
[Driving safety was a huge concern. Some didn’t want their children to ride with the parent. But adult kids are torn. They are sensitive to the loss of freedom if parents can’t go when and where they want. Some expressed an obligation to offer alternative transportation and thought about how that would complicate their own lives.]
2. What do you want to know about your parents’ future plans that you hesitate to ask?
[Many said they don’t know whether parents want to be cremated, what kind of service they would want, or where they want to be buried. They hesitate to raise the topic of a parent’s death, regardless of how near or far in the future that seems. They suspect the parents themselves may not have thought it through.]
[But a few said parents had actually written out the details of their own funerals: hymns, who will speak for them, and even a liturgy.]
3. How satisfied are you with your knowledge of your parents’ finances?
[If their parents had not volunteered the information, most children did not want to ask directly, for fear of sounding greedy or eager for the parent to pass. They agreed they might be able to ask for a list of bank accounts and insurance policies, etc. Many children had knowledge; others had none. Sometimes one sibling did know and was willing to share the information.]
4. How much do you want to be involved in helping your parents make health care decisions?
[Even if a child or siblings did have a power of attorney for health care, they hoped the parent would also prepare a “living will” or a Five Wishes document, so that all the siblings would be on the same page. That way, if a hard decision has to be made, all will know what the parent wants. One man told me that his brother, who had the POA, extended their mother’s suffering for two years because she left no instructions and he could not bring himself to let her go. The siblings are still not speaking to him.]
5. Where do you imagine your parents will be living later in their lives?
[Most expect the parents to live in their own homes as long as possible, then go into some assisted living near the child. If parents live in another state, they anticipate some resistance from the parent. Some are worried about the cost of assisted living.]
6. What’s your deepest hope for your parents as they age?
[That they can be lucid, peaceful and pain-free and feel loved.]
What questions would you like to ask your parents? Please share your thoughts by writing a comment.