How Can I Start a Conversation with My Parents about Their Health Care Wishes for the Future?

As with any sensitive topics, discussions about health care and wills are best handled with tact and sensitivity. Start the conversation by asking your parents if they feel ready to talk about it. From there, keep an open mind and be respectful of their views.

Discussing topics like who will have medical power of attorney and other health care questions with your parents can be extremely difficult. Many people don’t want to even think about these things. Unfortunately, they are a necessary part of elderly health care—and it’s much better to have the tough talks ahead of time than during a crisis.

Young woman showing elderly couple a computer.

What to Talk About

Sit down with your parents when everyone is in good health and have a talk. Important topics to cover include who will have medical power of attorney and what they want to include in their living will.

Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney directive is a legal document that allows someone to name the person they want to be able to make medical decisions for them if they are unable to do so themselves. This ensures that someone your parents trust oversees their well-being should anything bad happen. Without power of attorney, they’ll have no say in who makes decisions for them.

Living Will

A living will is a type of advance directive—a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment. Living wills spell out exactly what sort of medical treatment the person wants in situations where they will be unable to make those decisions.

Living wills specify the person’s desires regarding certain situations:

  1. Whether the person wants to be kept on life support in a situation where there is otherwise no hope of recovery
  2. Whether they want to receive treatment or only palliative care (comfort measures) in the case of terminal illness
  3. Any specific medical treatments they do or do not want to receive

If your parents need help drafting a living will, there are sample forms available online to help them get started. The best option, though, is to consult with an attorney who can answer any questions that may arise.

While it’s smart to have these documents in place, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk that your parents will need to use them. One great option is to invest in medical alert systems—these smart devices can ensure your parents get fast help in case of a fall or accident, reducing the risk that they’ll end up in a situation where they would need to use power of attorney or a living will.