So recently my family has been going through a lot. I have been extremely lucky that I am a 30 something and I still have all 4 of my grandparents living. Where I wasn’t so lucky is that when their kids were grown, they moved from Illinois where my parents lived, and off two their respective new homes. Dad’s parents live in Arkansas and Mom’s live in Pennsylvania.
Recently, as they are all in their 80’s there have been a lot more health issues. Where they are, it makes it incredibly hard to be there for them. But their conditions make it hard for them to be alone.
The question is- what happens now? This sounds incredibly selfish, but do we miss work over and over to go down there? Do we quit our jobs to move in with them? How do we pay our bills? Or, do we ask them to move in with us? What if there’s no space? Should we ask them to consider nursing homes or assistant living communities by us? Do we ask them to drop their lives?
These are really the sort of things that need to be discussed before sickness. But talking to loved ones about end of life care can be hard- Truly hard. And who has the right to talk about this? The grandkids? Their children? Should they wait for the elderly to bring it up?
Well from my experiences here’s what I have learned.
- It’s never too early to start discussing end of life care, or even what to do in the event of a temporary illness.
- Make it known up front if you are willing to take time off of work or to quit your job to take care of them out of state. If you aren’t it’s important they know that and are able to plan for their futures. Make it known if you have space for them to move in with you.
- Ask them if they are okay with assisted living facilities or nursing homes. If they are, maybe look into a few ahead of time.
- Medically- Ask them if they want extreme measures taken. A feeding tube? CPR? Breathing tube? Are they interested in organ donation?
- After life- Do they want a funeral? Do they want to be cremated? Open Casket? These things are important to make known to keep peace amongst the family after the loved one has passed and more importantly to be able to honor their wishes.
- Anyone can strike up the conversation, but it’s important that everyone in the immediate family is informed of the wishes. It is best to have the person being discussed draw up a wishes document and give a copy to all parties.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t be there 100% of the time. Yes they do need you, but you have a job, a house, a family, pets etc. While they are important to you, there needs to be a balance.
This all seems extremely depressing, but trust me, the earlier you talk, the easier it is. Throwing illness into the mix makes things harder. Knowing what they want and having it written down is key to less stress, easier decision making and honestly, these questions let your loved one know you care.
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