When and How to Talk to Aging Parents about Elder Law and Power of Attorney

No matter how much money one has there is no option to turn back time or slow the aging process. As your parents get older and enter “old age” it’s important to try to balance your respect for their independence with the consequences of their mental or physical health decline. This can be a difficult balance to negotiate.

A recent survey showed that 90% of people said they knew they should talk to a family member about end-of-life wishes and power of attorney, but only 30% of them had. The most common reasons for delaying the conversation were: they thought it was too early to discuss it, it was an uncomfortable conversation, the timing isn’t right, or they didn’t want to upset a loved one.

A power of attorney (POA) is one way to ensure that your loved one’s wishes will be prioritized. The conversation can be difficult, but the flip side is that you may not be able to honor your loved one’s end-of-life wishes. If a parent mentions a family friend or relative who is in the hospital or recently endured a scary medical situation, consider asking your parent if they have thought about what their wishes would be in that situation. Ask your parents about their experience with their own parents end of life planning – what could have made it easier? Talk about a friend’s experience with end-of-life planning with their parents. This many open a door to talking about their own. Introducing the power of attorney conversation can be the hardest part. It is likely that your parents or loved one have already considered their end-of-life plans and may have even put some plans into action that you aren’t aware of.

Some additional advice to help this challenging process along: Be certain that you listen more than you talk. It’s alright to ask questions, but try to avoid voicing your opinion at this stage as it could lead to arguing or debating which could hinder additional dialogue. Offering to help with documents can make the process much quicker and smoother. When having the Power of Attorney conversation, make sure everyone understands the types of Power of Attorney and which roles they are assigning to whom.

Talking about becoming a power of attorney can be difficult, but the conversation is essential. Once the conversation has taken place and plans have been made, it is crucial that loved ones have access to the documents should a medical emergency arise. For the best counsel, we advise you to speak with an elder care legal professional who can knowledgeably guide you and your loved one through the process.