by Jacqui Brauman

Let’s talk today about an imperative yet challenging subject—conversing with your family about their death and their last wishes. It’s a hard topic as most people are apprehensive about discussing it with their folks. Why? There’s an unspoken phobia that it could be misinterpreted—for instance, the child appearing greedy or hankering after their inheritance.

Also called the “sandwich generation,” this category of people often shy away from bringing up the prospect of their mortality with their young adults. They fear that their children either won’t take it seriously or the thought of their demise might upset them. But it’s better to have these conversations as the absence thereof makes grieving more challenging and decision-making during crisis even harder.

Talking to your Family about Death and their Wishes

Initiating the Conversation

The first step is to find a suitable pretext to bring up the subject. You can relate it to something topical or personal. You might refer to a video you came across on the topic, or use your estate planning as an opportunity to ask your parents about their plans. A question about when their will was last updated, or if they’ve considered Powers of Attorney, could be your conversation starter.

Most parents don’t want their passing to be a burden on their children. Thus, approaching it from this perspective, focusing on Powers of Attorney more than the will, might make the discussion more comfortable.

Importance of Getting Things Right

Ensuring your elders’ estate planning is up-to-date should be a priority, as laws have evolved over time, and life circumstances may have turned more complex. Considerations may include plans for their superannuation, finding out if they are self-funded retirees or dependent on social security, or if there’s a pension that needs to be considered.

When discussing with young adults, convey the implications their superannuation could have on their dependents if they were no more. They need to realize that their will doesn’t automatically dictate where their superannuation goes.

Discussing Medical Wishes

Another vital issue to talk about is one’s medical wishes. A timely opportunity to broach this subject could be when reflecting upon a celebrity death, or talking about someone they know who’s been diagnosed with a critical ailment.

The discussion isn’t merely limited to ‘do not resuscitate’ orders, but it extends to more complex topics like desiring artificial nutritional support, antibiotics, surgery, psychological treatment for palliative care, and the level of assistance in care that they’d prefer.

The Necessity of Continued Dialogue

Given the importance of this issue, allocate enough time for an extensive and uninterrupted discussion. If people start feeling uncomfortable, suggest rescheduling a meeting to continue the talk. The critical thing is not to let the conversation slip away or have it unresolved.

Remember, these are crucial conversations that are a great service to your loved ones and would immensely aid you in the future. As we near the end of the year, consider making these discussions your new year’s resolution. It’s time to get things in order, not just for your parents, but for your young adult children too. Let’s face the unspoken, decode the silence and initiate “the talk” today, for a clearer and peacefully planned tomorrow.

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