As your parents get older, it’s important you have a clear understanding of their end-of-life wishes and their financial situation. Why? Because as their future guardian, it’s vital you have all of this information at your fingertips so you can help them as they get older. Then you know your family is prepared for the unexpected.

The biggest trap you can fall into is putting off these important questions until it’s too late. As we all know, it’s so easy for time to slip by and then you’ll find these important questions haven’t been asked. So what’s the best way to go about asking your parents these important questions?

First, you need to make a time to sit down with them and check they have all of their legal documents in place. Second, ask them if it is okay that you have access to all of these documents.

The next step is to sit down with your parents and go through it step-by-step. It’s never going to be easy to ask your parents questions about their end-of-life wishes, but if you keep in mind this will be a huge help to them in the later stages of their lives, this should make it a bit easier.

Question 1. Do your parents have an enduring power of attorney?
Your parents will need to fill out an enduring power of attorney, which is a legal document that designates who will take care of their affairs if they are unable to decide for themselves, for example if they become mentally or physically incapacitated.

More than one person can be designated to take care of your parents’ affairs on this form. So you need to decide who these people are going to be – more than one person is probably best if possible. The power of attorney form must be signed by these designated people and your parents, and then it has to be witnessed by a lawyer.

You need to get this form completed as soon as possible as you are not legally able to help your parents with their financial affairs without it.

Question 2. What are your parents' end-of-life wishes?
An advanced care directive – also known as a living will – is a document which states your parents’ end-of-life wishes. For example, they can state whether they’d like a ventilator and feeding tube to keep them alive in the event of an irreversible coma. They can also choose how long they would stay on a ventilator in this situation. They can also choose if they want to have CPR initiated if their heart stops. There are other directives they can give as well such as whether they would like to donate their organs once they pass on.

If your parents haven’t made these choices and they don’t have an advanced care directive yet, be sure to ask the questions and keep a record their wishes. You’ll also need to ensure the people named on your parents’ power of attorney are aware of these decisions.

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It is important to discuss your parents' end-of-life wishes to be aware of what they want

Question 3. Do your parents have a will?
A will is the legal document used to designate what happens to your parents’ money and possessions after they pass on. Your parents should have one already but check to make sure they are happy with it and it has been updated recently.

Question 4. Do your parents have enough funds for aged care?
Moving into aged care is not cheap but there’s help from the government if your parents qualify. You need to be aware of your parents’ financial situation so if something happens to their health, you know how much money is available.

Question 5: Do your parents have a preference for an aged care facility?
It’s best to ask your parents if they have some preferences for aged care before a crisis hits. This gives them the opportunity to be involved in the process, rather than just having to hand everything over to you.

There may be an aged care facility they’ve seen which they like and if you know this, it’ll make everything a whole lot easier later on.

Question 6: Is someone advising your parents on financial matters?
Older parents can be very independent regarding their finances and this is totally understandable. But at the same time, it’s important you ask your parents if they are getting advice from anyone about their financial situation and if they are following any sort of program. 

There are a lot of scams around so if you find out they do have an advisor or an accountant they deal with regularly, make sure you check them out to see if they’re reputable. This will also make it easier to get in touch with this person in the case of an emergency.

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As your parents get older, it’s important you have a clear understanding of their financial situation

Question 7: Who are the medical professionals your parents are currently seeing?
You need to know the names of the medical specialists your parents are seeing as well as their main doctor. If one of your parents becomes hospitalised, information from one of these doctors could be critical so you will need all of their contact details.

Question 8: Can your parents cope with their medications?
Many older people end up on some complicated protocols involving a number of medications. If you sit down with them and ask them to let you know exactly what they’re on, this should help you gauge whether your parents are able to manage their medications themselves or not.

You need to have this information just in case you need to provide it to hospital staff in case of an emergency.

Question 9: Are all of these documents current?
All of the documents we’ve mentioned so far need to be up-to-date for them to work properly. Encourage your parents to keep all of these documents together and it’s best you go through these documents with them once each year, just to check that everything is up-to-date.

Question 10: Where are these documents kept so they can be accessed if needed?
Probably one of the most important things to keep in mind in all of this is where all of these documents are going to be kept so you can find them in an emergency. It’s best that a few people know where these documents are kept in case something happens to your parents while you are away.

Many people decide to keep the original documents in a safe or a designated safe place – so that everyone who needs to know where they are can access them when needed.

Have you spoken with your parents about any of these issues? Let us know in the comments section below.

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