Planning for Aging Parents - What Do You Do?

After attending 3 wakes in the past month involving the passing on of friends' aged parents or parent-in-law, I am beginning to feel a little uneasy that my husband and I haven't really started planning for his aging parents.  For two of our friends, their parents passed away after a long struggle with illness.  For the third, the mom died suddenly after being admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with acute lung infection.

These things are sad, and we tend to brush them aside as unfortunate events that probably won't happen to us.  But according to my best friend who works in a step-down care hospital for the aged, it is more and more common to see aged parents who suffer long bouts of illness that require long-term care.  She has seen families quarrel over the financing of parental care.  Some have even left the parents in the hospital and refused to take her calls.

The rational thing to do is of course to  have an open discussion involving the parents and all the siblings before such a problem crops up.  But it is such a sensitive topic to broach in so many respects.

In my case, my own parents have passed on and I never had any experience dealing with managing their hospital care because I was the youngest in the family.   I find it difficult to talk about money directly with my in-laws and have to depend on my husband to start the ball rolling.

Secondly, my in-laws belong to the generation where money is not discussed openly and while I believe they may think it's alright to talk about it, I think often-times they don't quite understand the need to.  For example, a few years ago, my husband wanted to tap on his Medisave to buy an integrated Shield plan (which covers hospitalization and surgery) for my father-in-law.  For some unknown reason, he had to keep reminding his father to sign on the form.  The father was very nonchalant about it and said that he doesn't need insurance because if anything happens, he would rather die a quick death.  He just cannot see that sometimes, one has no choice but to struggle with chronic pain and illness before the final demise.  He probably also cannot see - now that he is relatively healthy - how medical bills can drain away years of savings.

And lastly, it is also a touchy subject to raise with siblings or siblings-in-law.  Everyone has different income levels and financial backgrounds, so is it a case of "who ever can afford pay more" or "everyone pays equal share"?   Who is the one to physically take care of the sick parent and to manage the hospitalization needs?  Who can be the back-up? Questions like these don't have easy answers and even if we do, things can be very different when the actual going gets tough.

I wish I have the answers.


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