When it comes to long term care planning, there are four main areas that the sandwich generation needs to discuss with their parents: their ideal living arrangements, medical coverage, estate planning and finances.
It’s important to understand your parents' ideas about their long term care plans. If you have not had this conversation, it might surprise you to learn that your parents have certainly been struggling, in silence, with this issue. If their plan is to stay in their own home, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the available community resources for support. Then, take the time to research alternative living arrangements in the event that remaining at home is no longer a viable option.
Analyze the type of medical coverage your parents have and its coverage. If they have long term care insurance, it’s important to understand all of the terms of this contract. You should have the name and telephone number of their primary care physician as well as any specialist they are seeing. Have a sense of their medical history and condition. If your parents will allow it, have a conversation with their primary care physician who may have insights to share with you.
Estate planning includes legal, financial, and end-of-life issues. See if your parents have an advance health care directive, a will and/or trust, and a general power of attorney for finances. Find out who has copies of these documents or where they're kept. It is important that you do not view their appointments emotionally. Leave your inner child at home and discuss their choices without emotion. Be prepared to provide constructive comments on any appointment that you think might cause them problems such as a spendthrift named as their financial fiduciary or the hard to locate sibling named as their Healthcare Agent. Talk to your parents about their financial resources, both income and assets—this is critical if you need to place them in a long-term care facility or apply for government programs.
Last, the hardest conversation may be about their final wishes. See if your parents have made funeral arrangements and have prepaid them. If they don't have these plans, encourage them to tell you what they want. Discuss their thoughts on dying with dignity and what that means to them and how it should impact any healthcare decision you might have to make for them.
Going over all of these issues with your parents while they can participate will provide you with enormous peace of mind when the time comes to implement their wishes. Every family member should be involved in the discussion, whether in person, skype or by telephone conference; when everyone is read into the plan lessens the likelihood of arguments or misunderstandings later.
Reference: Ventura County Star (February 9, 2016) "Talk to aging parents about finances, health care, living arrangements"