Wednesday, March 9, 2016
When I was growing up, it was family practice not to discuss money, politics, religion or my grandfather’s war experiences at the dinner table, not that I remember many conversations about any of these most other times. And like awkward conversations about money and the reproduction process, we also rarely discuss our fears for serious illness or death, often until it is too late to do so.
Even questions about intimacy can pale next to the awkwardness of discussing illness and mortality. It seems that I am not alone, but as a baby boomer, this is going to cause major headaches, extra legal work and lack of productivity for the next generation. In our family, we have started to have these conversations with both our parents and our children.
All of us cherish our privacy and our independence, hate admitting any loss of ability, physical or mental, most of us worry about the future and dislike change that we are not in control of, regardless of our circumstances. And multiple that by the emotional toll and effect that confronting the possibility of all of those triggers at the same time would have.
Sometimes, however, the conversation can end awkwardly before any information is shared, so considerate and respectful communication is key. Be prepared to start slowly and go slowly as it is unlikely that one conversation will resolve every possible issue.
So consider this my permission for all adults over the age of 19 to ask close family members some important personal questions, and remember this can go in all directions between Elders, Mid-Adults and Young Adults, with or without children of their own.
Handle these delicate subjects with care and a plan. There are lots of good resources available, but here is is one way to start raising the topic:
Parent : Adult Children
Talk about the past good times and ask “If we couldn’t go to the (insert event, place) because of an (illness), what would you like to do instead?
My friend(s) have related some difficult stories to me about situations that have their families have experienced and all the trouble it has caused. I don’t want to upset you, but if something happens to me / you health-wise, I want you / us (our family) to know what your / my wishes are.
In the next post, How to ask financial questions?