As life expectancies rise and more baby boomers cross the senior citizen threshold, New York elder law issues are growing in importance. The demographic shift is also forcing more adult children than ever to discuss senior care with aging loved ones. As one Mercury News writer mentioned yesterday, this is becoming the 21st century version of “the talk” between parents and their children.
The story notes how timing is important with these discussions–being proactive is far superior to reactive. One man explained how he only truly appreciated the importance of early discussions after waiting too long to help his wife’s grandmother. The grandmother was in her mid 80’s when she began to suffer health problems. The senior needed extra assistance, but no plan was in place to provide it. On top of that, like most in her situation, she wanted independence and insisted on staying in her own apartment. Eventually the senior was found wandering throughout her housing complex and was asked to leave. Her family was forced to move her to various places in her final years. They admit that the situation was not ideal for the grandmother or themselves, but their options were limited because they were forced to react to each new emergency.
Learning from that experience, the man began talking with his own mother about her about her long-term wishes and desires for late in life care when she showed the first signs of a decline in health. They conducted estate planning and learned about their options. His mother now lives in a quality senior residence that offers various levels of care. He explained, “You can’t just walk in off the street and get that. You have to do research, get on waiting lists, plan years ahead. And not everybody can afford just any place they want.”
An early discussion about long-term care planning has many benefits. However, advocates explain that these conversations can be difficult for some seniors who struggle with the reversal of roles between parent and child. They advise adult children to remember that they themselves might be in the same position years down the road and to consider how they’d like their own children to approach them on the issue. If appropriate, it may be helpful to have a trusted third party involved like a family friend, pastor, rabbi, or primary care physician. In each situation adult children should have these discussions early, be patient, and avoid any judgmental comments.
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