Don’t Overlook This Very Important Meeting

Julie’s brother called her 3 weeks ago. Their mother had a major stroke and was in a hospital in Houston, TX. Her condition was severe.

The Phone Call We Dread

Julie and her husband left for Texas that evening. When they got to the hospital the next morning, they saw Julie’s mom lying unconscious in the bed, all these tubes in her body. There was a variety of machines making many different noises.

Julie’s 2 brothers and sister were there. They told her the doctors did not hold out much hope for their mom. They all were praying for a miracle. However, there was no change in her condition.

Julie visited her mom every day for the rest of the week. On Thursday, her condition worsened. It looked like she had another stroke. She had limited brain waves. By Saturday there were no brain waves at all. The doctors said there was little hope. She was being kept alive by machines.

On Monday Julie and her siblings decided to take their mom of the machines. She died on Tuesday morning.

Up to the stroke her mom had been in great physical condition. Everyone remarked how her health was better than her children’s. The family was more concerned about her dad who had Alzheimer’s. Julie’s mom was his primary caregiver and since her health was so good, they were not concerned about him.

The Discussion the Family Never Had

The one thing Julie’s parents and their children never discussed was what would happen when the parents became incapacitated or died. The children knew nothing about their parents’ finances. They didn’t know if they became incapacitated whether they’d consider a nursing home. They didn’t know if there was a will which might spell out these things.

All they knew was there was family burial plot at a cemetery. Julie’s mother’s parents purchased it. They were buried there along with many of her mother’s siblings. 2 spots remained. Years before Julie’s mom and dad expressed a desire to be buried there.

The Scramble to Find Things

When Julie and her siblings realized her mom would not survive, they started scrambling. They searched all through the house to see if there was a will. They also looked for bank statements, life insurance policies and anything their parents may have written concerning what they would like done at the time of their deaths.

They tried to ask their dad about this. However, he couldn’t tell them anything because of his Alzheimer’s.

In addition to arranging for their mom’s burial, Julie and her siblings had to decide what they would do with their dad. Her siblings were leaning towards putting him in a nursing home. Julie thought she might have him live with her.

Julie and Her Siblings’ Situation is Not Unique

A 2013 study revealed 75% of adults have never discussed with their parents what their parents’ wishes are at times like this. They haven’t talked about living arrangements after they retire, long term care or funeral wishes. They also have not discussed their finances and whether they have life insurance.

Only 68% of those 65 and older have a will. This drops to 32% of those who have a high school education or less.

Discuss These Things with the Family

It’s important for you to have a discussion with your parent or parents and your siblings about these matters.

  • Do your parents have wills?
  • Find out about your parent’s or parents’ finances.
  • Ask them about Life insurance policies they have.
  • Ask them where they want to be buried.
  • If they develop a serious medical condition and no longer can live on their own, how would they like you to handle that?
  • Do they expect someone from the family to care for them?
  • Would they desire to move into an Assisted Living Center or a Nursing Home?

If you are an older person, suggest to your children a meeting to discuss these things.

This meeting should be as comfortable for everyone as possible. It should take place in a relaxed setting.

But Our Family Doesn’t Get Along

You might say our family could never have a meeting like this. We don’t get along with our parents. We don’t speak to our brothers and sisters.

If that’s the case, give a list of all these questions you want answered to your parent or parents and ask them to sit down with one of their siblings or a good friend whom they trust and talk about the answers to each one. If there are no siblings or no good friends they can do this with, have them sit down with their pastor or someone their pastor recommends. If that’s not possible, have them sit down with a financial adviser or an elder law attorney and do it.

The Main Objective Here . . .

. . . is to know the wishes of your parent or parents if they have a serious condition or when they die. You will be able to make sure to follow through on what they desired.

Your parent or parents will be happy. It will spare you of unnecessary anxiety and grief at a time like this.