Adult children often find it difficult to think about the possibility that someday one or both of their parents won’t be able to take care of themselves. As a result, many families are unprepared to handle the issues and challenges that many aging parents have. As tough as it is to think about, the best time to talk about financial and health issues is when your parents are well and independent.

Here are 10 essential questions that everyone should know about their loved ones:

1. What is your health insurance coverage?

Most adults 65 and older are eligible for and covered by Medicare. But Medicare doesn’t cover all medical expenses, so your parents should also have supplemental insurance. Finding the right plan can be tricky and they may need your help navigating this process.

2. What health issues are you most concerned about for the future?

Discuss any chronic illnesses or conditions that require your parents to have ongoing treatment. Ask for a list of medications and doctors’ contact information and talk about what kind of long-term care your parent would want if needed—such as bringing a caregiver into the house or moving to an assisted living or retirement center.

3. Where would you prefer to live if you were no longer able to stay in your home?

Is your parent comfortable with the prospect of living in a nursing home, or does he or she have thoughts about moving in with a family member or friend if extra care was needed? Be open and direct about your ability to honor these wishes.

4. What level of care would you want if you became seriously ill?

This is a difficult but important question to bring up. Once your parents have expressed their wishes, a lawyer can draw up an advanced medical directive—a written document that takes effect when a physician certifies that a person is unable to make his or her own health care decisions.

There are two types of advance directives. A living will contains written directives to health care providers regarding what types of life support or sustaining treatments a person does or does not want to receive. A durable power of attorney for health care is a document in which one person gives another person the legal authority to make medical treatment decisions on his or her behalf.

5. What are your end-of-life wishes?

Make sure you understand specifically how your loved one feels about prolonging life with the use of a ventilator or feeding tube if the situation should arise. This information should be shared with family members included in the living will. If your parent chooses a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order, it should be posted on the refrigerator so that, in case of an emergency, their wishes will be clear to EMTs and others.

6. Do you have a will?

If your loved one does not have a will, encourage them to make an appointment with an attorney to have one prepared. If there is no will when they pass away, a legal surrogate will be assigned to administer the estate and your parent’s personal wishes might not be honored.

7. What is your financial situation?

Familiarize yourself with both their insurance coverage and financial assets like life insurance plans, savings, pension plans and retirement funds. Don’t forget that income, assets and insurance impact Medicaid eligibility and Medicare coverage. 

8. Where do you keep your important documents?

Family member should know where important documents, such as wills, birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, military records, and financial papers and records are stored. Ideally, you will have a list of all the documents and accounts, along with passwords and contact names for accountants, lawyers and bankers.

9. Who would you like to take care of your finances if you couldn’t do it?

Everyone, even younger people, should create a durable power of attorney. This legal document lets your parents authorize a specific person to act on their behalf in managing their finances if they became incapacitated. By having a power of attorney in place while your parents are competent, you may avoid the costly and time-consuming process of going through the courts to obtain these powers later.

10. What are your wishes for a funeral or memorial service?

If your parents have specific thoughts regarding the funeral ceremony or service, burial or cremation, ask them to put their wishes in writing. This will help to ensure that their desires are carried out and reduces the possibility of disagreements among family members regarding exactly what the parents would want done.

Home Care Angels provides assistance with daily activities, such as dressing, eating and personal care, from home service aides. Please call 847.824.5221 to speak with one of our Client Care Coordinators if you would like more information on in-home care.