How to Approach “The Other Talk” with Your Parents (or Children)
So you thought the “Birds and the Bees talk” was the most awkward conversation you had with your parents? Wait until you’ve tried “The Other Talk”.
Tackling “The Other Talk” can be difficult. Sex and death are two cringe-worthy topics that can bring heaps of anxiety to children and their parents. However, discussing end of life preparation doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. With the right planning and a touch of humor, you can make the conversation palatable. Maybe even enjoyable. With that in mind, the staff from Final Roadmap came up with a little advice:
It Is Important to Have the Conversation
“A lack of an end of life plan, created well in advance, typically leads to prolonged hospitalization, soaring medical bills and unnecessary pain and suffering for everyone.”
– The Institute of Medicine
There is a magnificent “win- win- win” around end of life if prepared for properly while we are healthy. First, knowing your parents’ wishes will be a gift to you and your siblings, allowing you to act with confidence as you honor them. No wondering, no fighting, no regrets. Second, articulating their wishes gives them control. For example, you can learn who they want to speak for them when they are unable to speak for themselves. You can also discover what quality of life means to them, and what they are thinking about regarding funeral or celebration of life plans. Finally, they will have a hand in determining how much of their money is spent on the care they want and value. This includes medical care, funeral and burial expenses, etc.
You would be surprised at how many times elderly parents have said, “Oh my gosh, my children don’t want to talk about this!” while their kids say, “We have to talk about death??”.
Talking about end of life does not have to be morbid. Starting the conversation with humor can be the perfect ice breaker:
“Hey mom and dad did you know that the death rate in the United States is still 100%?”
Be natural. It is ok to be serious, but it is also ok to keep it light.
Here is where a little preparation will really help:
Make a list with your siblings of the things you would like to know, paying special attention to differing opinions or beliefs that your parents value. The conversation with your parents will allow you to all be on the same page, understanding what they want.
- Have you discussed advance directives?
- Who do they want to speak for them?
- What does ‘quality of life’ mean to them?
- What are the 3-to-5 things that make life worth living?
- Where would they like to die?
- Who would they like in the room with them?
- Have they considered pain management versus awareness?
- Where do they want to be buried?
- Would they prefer cremation?
- Have they considered a ‘Celebration of Life’ while still alive vs. after death services? Or do they want both?
- How much money would they like to spend?
- Would they like to assist in writing their obituary?
- What about leaving messages for loved ones?
- Where are their important documents and who will have access?
Don’t Worry If the Conversation Doesn’t Go as Far as You Hoped.
Success might be just opening the door to future discussions. As you dive into the conversations, many more questions will present themselves. On this topic, there is no such thing as too much information (unlike the sex talk!).
And Finally, Talk About How to Enjoy Life
This might be a good time to set a meeting for a family vacation or encourage your parents to check a few items off of their bucket list. Reinforce with your parents that end of life planning is not about dying. It is about living with the peace of mind that they will be prepared and have their ducks in a row.
Most importantly, assure them that they will be leaving memories, not problems.
Need a starting point for “The Other Talk”? Download our free guide below and take our End of Life Preparedness Quiz to build a road map for you and your loved ones.
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