12/04/2014 05:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Stop Waiting for Mom and Dad to Die


I have been a caregiver for over 25 years for several different family members and friends. I have also limited my law practice to Elder Law issues because that's what I've been knee-deep in for so long.

I have found that family members wait far too long to deal with the serious medical, legal and financial issues of their parents. I used to think this was because older parents were objecting to their young whippersnapper children interfering in their business. But over the years, I have come to find that adult children are very skilled at "ostriching" their parents problems.

In my own family and in my practice I see caregivers or expected caregivers who skillfully stick their head in the sand, hoping that the problems will resolve themselves, go away or Mom or Dad will likely die before they need to deal with this.

According to the Centers for Disease Control we are living longer. The average life expectancy for men is 76 and for women 81. Those numbers are rising every year. So a quick and painless death with no financial crisis, insurance issues or other complications is the rarity not the common experience. It is less likely that children want to meddle in their parents' affairs than it is that children do not want to be parents to their parents. Adult children have their own financial, legal and health issues. These "children" we speak of are often in their 50s, 60s and 70s. They are going to their own doctor appointments, financial advisors and reading and re-reading the Open Enrollment for Medicare, because who can figure that out? They don't want to deal with Mom and Dad's problems if they don't have to. So they wait. And they wait until it is too late.

There is now no time for estate planning, nursing home planning or long-term care insurance. There is no time to get Powers of Attorney signed, or time to discuss an Advanced Directive if Mom or Dad is in a permanent vegetative state. They have not discussed funeral arrangements, assisted living or how to pay extensive bills for health or housing. Disaster is now right around the corner, not some years off.

People don't die like they used to. People live a long time with complicated medical and financial issues. Nursing homes are filled to the brim with people who don't die. For heaven's sake stop waiting for your elders to die and get yours and their affairs in order now.