At what age do you think the job of parenting ends? Is it when your child graduates from high school or college? Is it when they get married or start a family of their own? While these events are important milestones, the truth is that the parenting role doesn’t stop until we prepare ourselves and our children for their role in our last years of life.
No one knows for sure what the last chapters of their life will include, such as how and when their health will worsen, and death will occur. However, it is likely that issues will eventually arise and tough decisions will need to be made. When this happens, many times, adult children are confronted with an unexpected crisis that disrupts their parents’ lives. By waiting until a crisis occurs to talk about your values and preferences, wishes for health care or details of your finances may not be known. Waiting until a fall, accident, or serious diagnosis, big decisions may be driven my assumptions. It is important to be proactive, instead of reactive, so conversations occur when emotions are not high.
When a parent does not plan ahead for their later years, it leaves the difficult decisions up to their children. The parent becomes the innocent bystander to potential disagreements between family members, and emotionally driven decisions that may be made. By procrastinating, your children’s emotions and state of mind could suffer. They will be forced to make decisions without knowing your wishes. These hastily made decisions could result in your children:
- Feeling guilty or incompetent if something goes wrong
- Feeling helpless when trying to navigate the cost of healthcare
- Being filled with self-doubt about difficult decisions
- Losing support from siblings or other family members due to disagreements
Planning ahead and sharing your wishes reduces the burden that can fall on your children. By embracing a precautionary and cooperative state of mind, you can empower your family for anything that lies ahead. Having critical conversations that prepare for surprises and plan solutions will reduce the weight considerably on your children, leading to less stress and anxiety which will make your time together more enjoyable. There are online resources such as Five Wishes and The Conversation Project that can help guide your planning process. Ohio State University Extension is offering an in-person program called “On My Terms” for information about locating a class, please contact Kathy Tutt at firstname.lastname@example.org.