Holidays offer opportunity to ask elder care questions

The holidays are the chance to catch up with loved ones, and they can also open the door to discuss the future, including aging issues, said a University of Wyoming Extension specialist.

“For generations we’ve relied on family members to keep aging loved ones in their homes, but many people are now growing old without a strong financial base and without anyone nearby,” said Cole Ehmke, personal finance specialist.

“Elder care is a complex issue, and it can drain financial, emotional and time resources, even for those who are prepared,” he said.

Cole Ehmke

Ehmke suggested five questions to help prepare for a conversation.

  1. Have you noticed loved ones needing help with daily activities?
  2. When visiting parents, have you noticed bills starting to pile up?
  3. Have you had a conversation about long-term care with your parents and the ability to pay for it?
  4. Do you have all of the information needed to act on behalf of your parent/spouse if there were an emergency?
  5. Are you able to take on the time and emotional commitments of caring for a parent/spouse or both?

“A conversation about aging can be difficult to start and may be met with resistance or, potentially, hostility,” said Ehmke. “But you need the information to help them with their own decisions and for your own planning.”

A good way to begin a conversation is to ask your loved one some questions, said Ehmke.

  • How would you like to spend the last years of retirement? Where?
  • If you weren’t able to live at home, where would you like to be?
  • If you had a medical emergency, where would we find important papers, like advance directives and power of attorney?
  • If you needed help, who would you want to act as caregivers?

Ehmke stressed to pick a moment when you and your family members can spend time together in a calm, comfortable and private environment.

“It’s best if parents bring up the subject themselves, but they often don’t, or won’t, even as they face cognitive and physical decline,” he said. “Delaying the conversation just reduces options and makes organizing the process more difficult.”