If you are an adult child of parents who are senior citizens, you may already be worried about your parents' care in the coming years. Still, broaching the subject with them can be a minefield in some families. Learn how you can open the doors of communication on estate planning and assure that your parents get the help that they need.
Start discussions before there is a need
Ideally, the topic of future care needs will be brought up organically in the course of a discussion before it is ever apparent that your mom or dad may need to re-think their living situation. As northern Michigan winters can indeed be brutal, you may be able to segue into a discussion by asking your parents if maintaining the upkeep on their home or managing snow removal has become burdensome.
Long-term care policies that are purchased well before a parent has been diagnosed with any physical or cognitive conditions will be a great deal cheaper than those selected once dementia or another disabling or terminal condition is present.
If there's a sense of urgency
Sometimes a parent's health crisis is the catalyst for frank discussions about future care. If either parent has started to decline physically or mentally, you might have to just dive into a conversation about managing their changing circumstances.
Parents can be stubborn and insist that they will be able to manage even when it's obvious that they can't. Be prepared for them to dig in their heels on the matter, but make every attempt to keep the conversational lines open with them.
While it is possible for an adult child to take legal steps to obtain guardianship over incapacitated parents, ideally, your parents will agree to move to an assisted living community.
Avoid the term "nursing home"
Nursing homes often deservedly get a bad rap for being the place where senior citizens get dumped by their families and left to wither and die. However, senior living centers are usually vibrant communities with engaged and active residents.
Helping elderly parents understand this distinction is one way in which an estate planning attorney may be able to assist. He or she is a dispassionate third-party with no emotional stake in the matter. A discussion of estate-planning options with a neutral attorney can sometimes ease parents' minds.