How to Prepare for the Death of a Parent

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As an adult child of an aging parent, the roles you’ve played your entire life begin to shift. Instead of Mom and Dad looking out for your best interests, you become the one who calls and makes sure they are doing well, eating as they should, and getting enough rest.

Part of caring for an older parent is helping them to prepare for the end of life. Whether we like it or not, the reality is we all must face death eventually. To ignore death is to ignore life itself. Without considering the future of life without a parent, you may find yourself woefully unprepared for their sudden sickness or death.

Preparing for the death of a parent is multifaceted. There are essential emotional, financial, and medical preparations to make. Let’s look at the most important ways to prepare.

Prepare Emotionally 

Preparations that allow you to remember a parent’s life are essential for your grief journey. Once a parent is gone, you will want to remember the essence of their life when you feel yourself getting sad for the loss. 

A few ways to remember a parent well can be asking them to make videos or journal about their life. Or you could set up a camera and have a conversation where you ask questions about their beliefs and ask about aspects of their life. 

Finding a place of peace with a parent you emotionally struggle with is also important. Make sure to take time and talk through any difficult emotions or thoughts you need to get out in the open and resolve.

Medical Interventions

If your parent does not have a medical power of attorney, now is the time to talk with them about whether they have a plan for who will make the medical decisions they have not planned for should they become incompetent or incapacitated. 

Your parent should have a living will that lays out precisely which life-saving measures they are willing to allow. Beyond that, someone will have to make the medical decisions when or if they can no longer make them.

And when a parent gets to the point where death is inevitable, it is essential to know what kinds of palliative care they wish to have. Palliative care includes pain management and other ways to make a person who is dying comfortable. 

Help Them Prepare

Many people in their sixties and seventies have still not prepared for what will happen to them if they become sick or need extraordinary measures to save their lives. A full 75% of Americans have not made a living will to plan for measures like resuscitation, IV nutrition, dialysis, and respirators. (2) You can start the process with your parent to make sure their wishes are honored and prepare for the stress of being the child of an aging parent.

Prepare for End of Life Expenses

It is often a good idea to help parents put much of their assets into a trust if there is a possibility of a long-term illness. 70% of people turning age 65 now will need some type of long-term care services in their lifetimes. (1) Long-term care is not covered by health insurance or Medicare. 

If a parent’s assets are low enough, they can qualify for Medicaid benefits and receive monthly help with healthcare and long-term care expenses. Medicaid has a 5-year look-back policy, though, so it is important to prepare before things get tricky on the health front. 

Preplan for Funeral Arrangements and Costs

You can also preplan the type of funeral or memorial service a parent may desire. Some funeral homes allow for preplanning everything from the type of service to the flowers to the type of burial or cremation. With all of the options available for flowers, music, eulogies, obituaries, etc., it makes sense to know how your parent wishes to be remembered and make a plan with your local funeral home. 

There are also many types of ways that people handle their remains. Cremation is growing in popularity for its lower cost. There is also a green burial option at some cemeteries that allow for a biodegradable burial that is better for the environment than embalming.

Find Help

At Vail Gardner Law, we understand that preparation and planning for the future is a way of letting your family and friends know how much you love them. We want to help you on your journey to care for an aging family member or parent by becoming ready for inevitable milestones in their life. Getting the right medical and financial legal documents in order now can eliminate some of the stress of making tough decisions later.