In today’s culture, planning for final years is not a comfortable subject for many seniors and their adult children to discuss.

Seniors seem to be more comfortable planning for their funerals than planning for their care in case of declining health.

And adult children are often in denial and unwilling to listen or participate in such a discussion. After all, who wants to think about a time without a loved one?

Research corroborates the desire that individuals have to discuss these issues. In a survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network, nearly three in four seniors who have made plans for their final years have discussed them with their adult children, and half of those did so to let them know everything will be OK.

The survey also found that while 73 percent of seniors have a written will, only 13 percent have made arrangements for long-term care. According to AARP, 90 percent of seniors would prefer to spend their final years in their home; however only one in four has shared their wishes with their adult children.

Dr. Julie Masters, chair of the Department of Gerontology at the University of Nebraska, said, “Final years planning can bring up a host of emotions for seniors and their adult children. These conversations, while difficult, can help people feel more prepared and empowered. They can also deliver a sense of relief for families, who already have the documents in place, when the time comes to face those difficult decisions.”

“You may not be thinking of dying today,” Masters said. “Realistically you, and even a senior loved one you’re caring for, could have many years ahead. But living to the end really is thinking about the last day of your life. There’s power in not being afraid of it and recognizing it can happen.”

Dr. Masters suggests some guidelines for discussing these plans:

  • Don’t stress – Choose a neutral setting
  • Talk with someone you trust
  • Listen and keep an open mind
  • Move on if the discussion gets uncomfortable
  • Consider using photos or heirlooms as conversation starters
  • Express what you would like to have at your own funeral or memorial service

Relieving the stress on your loved ones through planning and discussions about your wishes is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

Write down your plans and tell your loved ones where all your information is located.

Knowing plans are written, even if not detailed, creates emotional benefits, such as confidence and relief. Your loved ones won’t feel solely responsible when decisions must be made.

To help start conversations about final planning, such as long-term care, financial options and funeral planning, find free resources online at ComposeYourLife

Rachel Carson is the owner of the Home Instead franchise serving The Lowcountry since 1997.