Talking to Your Parents About Making a Living Will

Most people don't want to talk about dying, and who can blame them? The discussion becomes even more uncomfortable when it’s an adult child trying to bring up end-of-life decisions with his parents.

Breaking the Ice

Because we know that discussing health care power of attorneys and living wills (an advance directive) can be awkward, we wanted to create a guide for starting a conversation about end-of-life decisions with older parents. The following tips are meant to give you ideas on how to bring up this often-difficult topic; they aren’t a must-do list. Let your family dynamics guide you on the big day. After all, you know your mom and dad much better than we do.

  • Alter your perception. It’s easy to look at advance directives as a sign of impending death. However, in reality, these documents are about respecting your parent’s wishes and about helping the family understand these wishes. So think about it as respecting a life, not planning a death.
  • Use an example. If there is someone in your life, or in the news, who recently suffered a serious injury or illness, use this to broach the subject. I’ve been thinking about how Uncle Marty’s family struggled with what to do after he got into his accident. I want to do better than that for you and was thinking it would be good to have a living will. Have you thought of making one?”
  • Time it right. One of the best times to broach this subject is when your parents are going through a transition in life. Downsizing a home, moving into an assisted living facility like Harbor’s Edge Retirement Community in Norfolk, or updating a will offer an opportunity to bring advance directives into the conversation.  

Get it in Writing

Having the conversation about your parent’s wishes is just the first step. The next is to get those wishes in writing. Even if the entire family is in on the talk, relying on the memory of this talk can be risky—each person may remember it a little differently. The only way to ensure that your parents get what they want when they need it most is to hire an experienced attorney to craft a power of attorney and living will.

If you would like more tips on how to speak with your parents about creating an advanced directive or need help ensuring that their wishes are respected, call us directly or fill out our online contact form. We are here to help you.