When it comes to caring for your parents and grandparents we know you may have questions.

What do you need to be prepared for? Are you equipped to handle a crisis that befalls them? How do you ensure they will be protected when they could face an uncertain long-term care future? Can you ask the people who raised you what their plan is for the future without being disrespectful? And what happens if you avoid the topic altogether?

We know the challenges you face. It isn’t easy to be a part of The Sandwich Generation, or the group of adults who find themselves caught between raising school-age children and watching parents advance into their older years. While for many of us this transition can appear to be easy, there are times when it is not and the challenges we face are daunting. This May, as we celebrate National Older Americans Month, we want to share with you ideas you can use for talking to the the Older Americans in your life.

“Older Americans” is the term used to describe the generation that is sixty years of age and older. Older Americans face a different set of challenges than their younger counterparts and, in many ways, have run out of the luxury of time. At this age, without thoughtful planning in place, a senior runs the risk of losing access to choices as well as  benefits.

We encourage you to start by talking to your parents about their health. This is an important line of communication to keep open. You want to know if there are new diagnoses or health care complications down the line. Remember that communication is a two-way street and you may need to initiate the conversation by talking about yourself or your spouse and your choices.

From here, transition into health care decision making. While your parent or grandparent may not want to begin by discussing their estate planning, addressing health care issues can lay the foundation for this conversation. Who should make their decisions if they could not? Who should talk to their doctor? Do they have a first choice, or second or third, for decision making? How would they want decisions made if they were in a coma? This begins the meaningful conversation about advance directives.

Next talk about access to health care records and paying for care. Be forewarned, the topic of Medicare alone may be its own conversation  as it can be very complicated and complex. Suggest to your parents to have a Medicare specialist review their plan to ensure they are in the right one with the most benefit. By talking about insurance and HIPAA, you can directly move into discussing durable powers of attorney and trust agreements. Gently remind your parents or other elders that without this planning in place, there will be no one with legal authority to make these decisions should a crisis occur.

Within this line of conversation, you can then move the topic to long-term care. Today, over fifty percent of Americans over the age of seventy will need some form of assistance in their lifetime. Openly share with your parent or grandparent that you would like him or her involved in this choice. Let them know that you do not want to make an autonomous decision and by planning together, in advance for a crisis, you can better ensure the future they want can be a reality.

While we know this is not an easy topic to discuss, the month of May and its focus on elders in America reminds us that we need to have these conversations. Please share this article with the Older Americans in your life. Do not hesitate to use it as a resource when you are ready to discuss topics like these that we know are difficult for you and your family.

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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an Orange County estate planning attorney and elder law attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He is all about family and has a passion for educating his community about trust and estate planning, veterans issues, and how to protect what matters most.

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