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AUDIO: Dr. Marty Klein - How Can I Prepare To Make Tough Life Decisions As My Parents Age?

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No sex or marriage question is too embarrassing because it’s time to ask EmpowHer’s sexuality expert Dr. Marty Klein, anything.

Here is a question that I know a lot of people have. “Dear Dr. Klein, my parents are getting older and I am afraid I am going to have to make some tough decisions ahead, which I am just not ready to do. How do I prepare myself?”

Dr. Marty Klein:
Well, you have already started to prepare yourself. You’ve started to envision that this lies ahead of you and that’s really excellent. Now, what you really want to do is you want to find out, have your parents made some of these difficult decisions? Do they have health care power of attorney? Have they said what they want done in case of very serious illness? Do they want to be put in the hospice? Do they want to have extraordinary measures used to keep them alive? Do they want to be buried after they die, do they want to be cremated? What do they want done?

If they have not thought about this and if they don’t want to talk about it, then you have to sit them down and say, “Mom, Dad, I love you very much, but we really need to talk about some of these difficult things.”

If they refuse to talk about that with you, than get an older relative or some older person who they respect, whether it’s an attorney or an uncle or a neighbor or someone in their church, if they are church-goers, someone who will sit them down and say, “Look, you have a responsibility as older people to take care of some of these decisions ahead of time so that the people, such as your kids or your nieces and nephews, so that the people who have to execute these decisions will have some guidance.”

It’s actually pretty selfish for older people to refuse to make any plans because then their kids or their nieces or their nephews or their younger siblings, they don’t know what to do. And who wants to make a decision, “Should I pull the plug on Dad or not?” Oh, my God. You know, that’s a hard enough decision to make when you have guidance from the person in advance. When you don’t have guidance, it’s just a horrible decision to make, horrible decision to be in.

So how do your prepare yourself? Step one: get your parents to commit to a decision ahead of time. Step two: if they won’t do that, get somebody else to try and talk them into making some of those decisions, and step number three-: talk with them about their values.

Talk with them about what’s important to them. Talk with them about issues like dignity or spirituality and get the best idea that you can about the kind of “end of life” experiences that you think they are going to want to have.

And after that, you know, just love them as best you can for as long as you can and understand that the pain of the death of the people we love is the price that we pay for the pleasure of having the love and connection with these people.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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