As a Certified Empowerment Coach, I like to help my clients gain a sense of control over their lives and, thereby, having more peace within themselves. When people feel like they’re shaping their own future – whether that includes retirement, a second-act career, or what their care wishes are– they gain greater peace of mind and are better able to happily get on with their lives. It becomes necessary then to have “The Talk” with your spouse and your kids about what your wishes are for your life/healthcare. If you’re over-50, you may be faced with having the same talk with your own parents. Here’s what to focus on…
Why It’s Necessary To Discuss Your Healthcare Wishes With Your Family
Before it becomes gravely necessary for your family to enact critical decisions about your life/healthcare, it makes it easier, less complicated and traumatic for everyone involved if you first explicitly let them know what you want those measures to be. It might be necessary some day in the future, for your kids, or your spouse, or some other family member, to step in and carry out a plan that you have provided. They may need to tell a doctor what your healthcare wishes are, or find suitable living arrangements, or home caretaking, if alternative care is necessary.
At one time you may have had a “talk” with your near-teenage kids about dating, sex, and becoming an adult. Now, you’ll need to sit down with them, your spouse, or other family members who will be involved, and have the other “talk” – the one about you moving into a different phase of your life. It doesn’t have to be stressful, or a big deal if you figure out exactly what you want beforehand. Having this serious talk with your kids and your family can actually lift a burden from your shoulders and give you peace of mind.
Here are the basic 4 issues that you’ll need to figure out beforehand:
1. Decision making. How/when do you want your kids/family to take over decision-making when you no longer can? Set criteria for when it may be time to take action for circumstances for your wellbeing. For example, taking away the car keys because your vision may be too poor to drive safely or weakness/injury to legs/feet that would impede operating a car safely, or your memory may be too unreliable to handle your finances, other personal business, etc. Will you give your kids joint use of your bank account to pay your bills, or will you set up a personal accountant or lawyer to do that? Clearly deciding these things ahead of time can save a whole lot of stress and hassle for everyone later.
2. Finances. How will you finance an unknown length of life that most likely will include some financial surprises? Do you have enough savings/income to sustain you independently, or in an assisted living facility?
3. Maintaining independence. Devise certain criteria specific to you that your family can use to determine if you can/should still live in your home alone. Can you afford a live-in assistant? Will you go to an assisted living facility? Will your kids want to/be able to have you live with them?
4. Medical care. What do you want for your healthcare if something catastrophic occurs? Creating an Advanced Directive while you’re younger and healthier can help everyone when the time comes to activate it. Who do you want to speak for you? Appointing a healthcare proxy should be determined before it’s time to need one. Care issues – would you want to be resuscitated, would you want to be intubated and kept on life support indefinitely? Would you want invasive surgical, or chemotherapy treatments at 95 yrs or more? Also, what about your finances and your medical care? Have you taken care of a Part B policy to supplement Medicare? Do you have/want long-term care insurance? (The cutoff date to get it is age 69 and gets more expensive the older you are).
Now, there’s another side of “The Talk” coin as well. Over-50 adults can be in a unique position. In addition to thinking about becoming their kids’ “charge” someday in the future, they may now also be “parents” to their own parents. Remember that your parents want the same peace of mind and sense of control over their own lives that you want. If your elderly parents haven’t dealt with these issues yet either, you can help them do so by talking to them about their wishes.
Gaining greater insight into how your decisions about your future will impact your kids/spouse will help you, your own parents, and children when the time comes. So, get your thoughts clearly together, put them down on paper, create an Advanced Directive, factor in any legal, financial issues, talk to the key people in your family about them, then put them away in a designated place and go enjoy your life!
Dale Brown, B.S., M.A., C.E.C.
Certified Empowerment Coach