Ten important questions to ask your parents

At a recent local atypical parkinsonism caregiver-only support group meeting, we talked about the importance of adult children knowing about their parents’ finances (especially where to find the necessary documents) and final wishes.

At the meeting, I mentioned one great article on this topic; I thought I’d share that resource more widely.  “The Parent Rap” offers a list of “ten important questions to ask your aging parents about finances, health care, and final wishes.”  I would slightly modify this to include both aging parents and parents diagnosed with neurodegenerative disorders.

“The Parent Rap” was published in late 2002.  My husband and I made three copies of the article.  My husband reviewed the ten questions with his father and father’s wife, writing down their replies on one copy.  One “issue” came up that we never realized was an “issue” — where was my father-in-law going to be buried?  Next to my late mother-in-law?  Where was his wife going to be buried?  They had not thought about this and needed to consult with each other and the cemetery.

I reviewed the article with my mother and her husband, writing down their answers.

In reviewing the article with my father, it was clear he was having problems making good decisions, and we realized we needed to get to an estate planning attorney soon so that he could establish a trust and get power-of-attorney documents in place, while he could still be considered competent.  (Cognitive impairment was one of the first symptoms my dad showed of PSP.)  It was the only time *I* ever asked my father about what intervention he’d want if he became seriously ill, and about his thoughts regarding his funeral.  This was several years before he died; it’s always best to have these conversations when death is not imminent.  When he died, I pulled out these notes to remind myself as to his final wishes (cremation, no service, ashes spread anywhere).

Periodically, my husband reviews the notes with his father, and I review the notes with my mother.

Two things take the “sting” out of these conversations.  First, we can “blame” the questions on the author of the article.  Second, by reviewing the info annually, the conversation has taken on a very customary air.  Why wouldn’t we talk about the article this year?  Of course we try to inject as much humor as possible into the conversation.

Unfortunately, the link to “The Parent Rap” article hasn’t worked for a long time but I’ll type up the 10 questions below.



The Parent Rap:
Ten important questions to ask your aging parents about finances, health care, and final wishes

Real Simple Magazine
November 2002

[Here] are 10 conversation-starting questions that adult children should ask their parents…

1.  Do you feel comfortable about your financial situation?  Would a financial planner be helpful?

2.  Do you have an estate plan?

3.  Who should handle your finances if you become ill?

4.  In the event you become seriously ill, what level of care and intervention would you like?

5.  Do you have enough health insurance?

6.  Do you feel your doctor is well-informed about the issues common to older patients?

7.  Can we help you make your home more comfortable?

8.  Are you feeling secure about driving?

9.  Can you share your thoughts about your funeral?

10.  Where are all of your important documents?