We are born into this word and the first thing a parent does is cuddle and hold our hands, the same thing often happens at the other end of the journey. No-one likes to think about getting old and we really don’t like thinking about our parents getting old but it’s going to happen, so surely it is better to be prepared rather than bumbling through it without a clue.
India Knight has a fantastic chapter in her latest superb book that I am reading which addresses “Ailing Parents” (you must read this book, btw it’s brilliant and this chapter alone helped me a lot recently). She makes such a good point about the fact that when we have babies there are tons of books covering topics from breastfeeding to toddler tantrums, magazines about parenting and cute baby things, but where are the guide books for old age? I need books with chapters such as these :
How to choose the best nursing home, Stay at home care for my parent, To resuscitate or not to resuscitate, Organ donation : the ins and outs, Cremation versus burial the pros and cons, Hallucinations : relax its probably only a urine infection, Explaining death to toddlers, MRSA : don’t panic most of us carry it, An Idiots Guide to Hospital Departments…you get the gist!
This is what I have learnt so far.
1. Draw up a Power of Attorney
Talk to your parent when they are fit and sound of mind and encourage them to get a solicitor to draw up one of these documents. Without this crucial piece of paper, if a parent is ill or their mind goes a little off then you can barely talk to the milkman about their bills due to date protection (even with a POA it’s a pain in the backside but at least you get there eventually).
2. Discuss money
Often if people have manage to save money throughout their life (this is no doubt becoming more and more rare) they are encouraged to gift money away to family as they get older to avoid inheritance tax. There are pros and cons to this of course but if your parents need care when they are older, try to pay for the best care that you can get them. There are carers who can look after you in your own home, incredible residential settings and some care homes that we sadly hear about on the news that are occasionally attrocious. There is a home that my dad has stayed in recently with a resident dog, cocktail hour, delicious food and stunning gardens. Now that’s what I’m talking about.
3. Donor cards and resuscitation orders
Hopefully it will never come to this but resuscitation is apparently not how it appears on Casualty. When someone is ill enough to need to be resuscitated they are unlikely to wake up and start chatting away like in the movies. There are lots of grey areas with managing illness, particularly in the elderly. Would your parent want a feeding tube? Are they happy to donate their organs if they were to die and be able to help someone else? We knew that my mum (who was a nurse) had an organ donor card, she died at the young age of 55 and was able to help prolong other lives through the organ donation scheme, small comfort for us.
4. Cremation versus burial
My goodness, I’m depressing aren’t I! Do you know what your parents (or you for that matter) would prefer? Decisions like this are horrible to think about but even worse when you are sitting around grieving for someone. Have the chat over a glass of wine, make a joke out of it but find out what they want if you can.
Anyway, I promise my next post will be light-hearted and about some Christmas cheer but these things are important to at least read about, even if we find it too hard to discuss sometimes.