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What You Need To Know About Your Aging Parents That No One Wants To Talk About—Part 5

In the previous installment of What You Need To Know About Your Aging Parents That No One Wants To Talk About, we explored specific questions to ask your parents about their plans for their elder years. Part of their plan should include 3 key documents: an updated and valid will, a durable power of attorney, and advance directives. These documents can be done online at free websites, pay-per-form websites, or by lawyers or paralegals.

  • Will: This document will make everything clear about what your parent's wishes are regarding her belongings no matter how extensive or meager. You will also be able to avoid the long and confusing process of probate and save in taxes when there are large sums of money involved.

  • Durable Power of Attorney: Also known as a durable POA, this authorizes a trusted person to act on behalf of your parent to pay bills, make housing choices, etc. Durable meaning the authorized person has this power when someone becomes incapacitated. If this is not in place, you would have to go to court to get a guardianship or conservatorship. This can be expensive.

  • Advance Directives: This includes two documents: a living will that outlines end-of-life wishes concerning medical care and a durable power of attorney (POA) for healthcare which gives authority to a trusted person to make health care decisions for your parent when he cannot. This is really important because it is the easiest way to avoid unnecessary, aggressive treatment.

As a critical care RN, I have watched families struggle at the bedside, agonizing over what their parent would want them to do in a life and death situation. Most of the patients did not have Advance Directives in place nor had they ever had a conversation with their loved ones about the type of treatment they would want, what quality of life meant to them, or when to withhold life-saving treatment. I did what I could to help, but sometimes it was too late and always heartbreaking to witness.

Even when families do have these types of discussions and a living will (with a series of checked boxes indicating the type of treatment to receive or withhold), it would be most helpful to the person holding the durable POA for healthcare (and all family members) to have the wishes of their loved one recorded on video that they can watch when they are feeling doubtful or inappropriately guilty about carrying them out. With just about everyone having a cell phone with a camera in it, making the video is easy. (HINT: you can use the questions in Part 3 of this blog to help with your video.) If you or your parent are uncomfortable doing it yourself, ask a friend or another relative to do it for you.

As an independent RN Senior Advocate, I also offer living will videos as a service.

How you get these documents done and a video made is of little consequence. The most important thing is to get them done and to communicate with your parents about their wishes. While you're at it, do it for yourself!

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