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Grandparents and Parents Not Listening When You Ask Them to Stay Home Due to COVID-19?  Get Their Attention by Talking About “When They’re Gone” Instead.

I was on a FaceTime call with my family recently – mom, dad, sisters, nieces.   My dad confessed that he had been grocery shopping despite pleas from the rest of us to stay home.  I’ve heard lots of GenXers, Millennials and GenZers worry about the same thing. Of course – in defense of our parents and grandparents, they’re not used to heeding warnings from us.  Here are some ideas for other important conversations to have instead that might get their attention.

Important Conversations To Have Now and How To Have Them

As an estate planning and elder law attorney, I talk about death and dying all the time.  I know that putting our affairs in order to make life easier on our grieving loved ones when we die is an act of love. With or without COVID-19, we don’t know when we will die.  Planning ahead is essential.  The “talk” that will get our loved ones’ attention – is not the “please stay home” talk – it’s the “planning for a good death” talk.  Here are some ideas for how to start this difficult conversation and some of the things to discuss.

Starting With Love

We’re never truly ready to lose a loved one.  When having conversations about death, dying and incapacitating illness, this is one of the places to start.  What are some of the practical things you will miss when your grandparents or parents are gone?

For example, my dad makes perfect croissants for every holiday gathering.  I’m not sure my family can make it through a holiday without them. My mom tells hysterical stories from when she was a kid growing up in the Missouri Ozarks – like about the time the outhouse was lost because it blew down the road in a storm.  I’m afraid when she’s gone the stories will be forgotten.

Take the time to ask your loved ones now for that favorite recipe.  Be your own story corps and record your loved ones’ stories.  Ask your parents or grandparents how they do that special thing they do.  Whatever it is.  They will feel loved because you asked.  And the request – please stay home because I’m not ready to lose you – might be easier for them to heed.

The Practicalities

This is also a good time to talk to your parents and grandparents about some practical things, too.  Here is a short list:

  • Do they have an estate plan – will, trust, powers of attorney for both health and finances? This is not the “what am I inheriting” talk; this is the “do you have a plan in place for when you die” talk.  And if so, where are those documents?
  • Have they appointed someone to make health and financial decisions for them if they cannot? If so, who is that person and where are the documents that allow that person to act?
  • Do they have an Advance Directive/Living Will? What are their wishes regarding whether extraordinary measures should be taken if they are in a persistent vegetative state and won’t recover?
  • Where are their important documents such as real estate titles, car titles, marriage licenses, birth certificates, military service records?
  • What kind of medical insurance do they have and do they have long-term care insurance?
  • Have they thought about their funeral and what kind of arrangements they want made?
  • Do they have financial account numbers in one place? Who has the passwords or where can they be found?  Maybe this is your opportunity to help them get this information in order and introduce your loved ones to a password manager like LastPass .
  • What are their social media accounts, mileage accounts, music accounts, email accounts? Directive Communication Systems, DCS, is a wonderful service that can help with this.

Most important is starting with love in your heart.  I can’t promise your loved ones will heed your request to stay home, but you will at least have had the opportunity to spend some “virtual” quality time with them.

Written April 2, 2020 by Stephanie Martinez

Contact our St. Louis office at 314-303-3218 for assistance regarding Estate Planning or Elder Law.

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