If you’re lucky, you’ve got a mom who is also a friend, or at least someone you can talk to.
So do it – talk to her. Talk about that time – hopefully a long way in the future – when the phone rings and it’s the hospital saying, “Something’s happened to your mom.”
It is, in fact, just a matter of a phone call that can change our lives and our relationship with our moms. A diagnosis, an accident – is can happen in an instant.
So talk now, while you don’t have the pressure of the emergency phone call. Talk about choices, decisions, money. Ask your mom to fill out a living will (also called Advance Health care Directive or something similar – it varies by state) and give you a copy. In it, she can indicate how much life support she wants at each stage of the process. She can change it at any time, of course, but it’s worth doing when there’s no pressure.
Talk about who she wants to make health care decisions for her if she can’t. Encourage her to get a signed Power of Attorney for health care to cover that possibility.
Have an open and frank discussion about options, too. Will she move in with you? Want you to move in with her? Move to a retirement or assisted living community? Will she allow caregivers to come into her home? How will she pay for services she might need?
Once you’ve talked with your mom, get your siblings into the conversation. You’d be surprised at how incidents involving parents can tear apart the fabric of a family, leaving siblings who never speak to each other again, or who actively work to tear down another’s efforts.
Author David Solie has a tool he calls the “mind-map” titled “When the Bottom Falls Out.” He uses it as a way to start the discussion about choices in the future. It’s a bit complex and difficult to use if you don’t understand the system of long term care options, but it’s a good conversation starter.
I use an approach one some people would consider the chicken way out. It goes, “Did you hear what happened to Melanie’s mom? I don’t know what I’d do if that happened to you. What would you want me to do?”
Doesn’t really matter how you start the conversation. Just do it.