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How to Discuss Preplanning Final Arrangements with Aging Parents

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There’s no easy way to address preplanning final arrangements with your loved ones, but it’s an important step in ensuring their wishes are met. It also eases the burden on you to make those decisions without their input.

As your parents age, you may realize that final arrangements for them will someday fall on you. Fortunately, they have the option to preplan and/or prepay for services as an alternative to having others make end-of-life decisions for them.

Let’s face it, no one wants to think about their own passing. So while it’ll be a challenge to discuss, preplanning ultimately records your loved one’s final wishes, saves money and reduces the stress of making arrangements yourself.

Below, we share helpful tips for talking to your parents about preplanning final arrangements.

1. Take it slow.

Before diving into discussions about preplanning, take time to reflect on family memories, including birthdays, vacations, holidays and more with your parents in a relaxed setting.

This can include talking about life’s fondest memories or viewing old photographs, which can help you feel connected to one another and spur meaningful, memorable conversation. During this time, you’ll learn about the things that matter most to your parents. For instance, they may have a favorite flower, photo or song that reminds them of a cherished time in their life—all of which can be incorporated into unique final arrangements.

Asking light-hearted questions about your parents’ life can help you segue into deeper discussions about end-of-life wishes and ultimately preplanning.

>>>Related Resource: Download Busch’s Essential Guide to Meaningful Conversation to Ease Into Conversations About End-of-Life Plans.

2. Be sensitive and direct.

Because a conversation like this can induce stress and fear, remember to remain sensitive about the topic at hand. Understand that no family is the same, and that this type of conversation could ignite a myriad of emotions, from anger to sadness. Prepare yourself to receive any type of reaction and offer caring, genuine responses.

Your parent(s) may also try to change the topic of conversation. While it’s important to give them space, be direct in letting them know the importance of preplanning and how it’ll benefit surviving loved ones and provide them with a loving tribute.

3. Share Preplanning Information.

Once you’re on the topic of preplanning, explain to your parents what it means and whom it affects. Help them understand the benefits of preplanning, and how it can save surviving family members from sudden financial burdens and stressful decisions during an already emotional time.

Provide them with detailed preplanning information and research that goes beyond simply telling them why it’s important. Show them what final wishes they can document, share cost-saving benefits and help them understand that they have a choice in the matter.

Furthermore, when a parent preplans, all final wishes are documented, so there are no hard decisions to stress over. This helps all surviving family members when the time comes—you, a surviving spouse and other family members. It’s an act of love, giving you the proper time to grieve with those who matter most.

4. Watch for signs of stress.

As you delve deeper into the details of preplanning, you may notice your parents withdraw from the conversation. If this is the case, don’t feel like you need to push them into making an immediate decision.

You’ve given them a lot of information to consider. Give them time to reflect on the conversation alone or with their significant other.

Once time has passed, find ways to bring it up again, or simply ask if there’s anything you can do to help.

5. Offer your support.

This might be one of your most challenging conversations, so let your parents know you’ll be there for them no matter what.

Whether they’re ready to preplan right away or need some time, help them research local funeral homes that offer preplanning or provide them with the resources they need to research in solitude.

Once they’ve chosen a provider, offer to attend preplanning meetings with them. If they prefer to handle them alone, let them know you’ll be there if they change their mind. It’s a difficult journey to begin, and they’ll be comforted knowing they’re not alone when it comes to end-of-life planning.

>>>Related Resource: Answers to 5 Common Questions About Funeral Preplanning

Struggling to Document Your Final Wishes?

Organizing and sharing your final wishes may not be at the top of your priority list—we understand most people don't want to think about their own passing.

Our assessment,
Your Legacy, Your Way: A Personalized Final Wishes Tool, makes it easier to record your wishes by offering a complete list of considerations for preparing end-of-life arrangements. Take it now to begin your planning.

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Kathleen Bloesinger
Kathleen Bloesinger
Believes that one of the greatest gifts we can leave behind is to put a plan in place now, to guide those we love into the future. It’s Kathleen’s privilege to give you sincere and honest information on the many end-of-life choices available to you. Honorably serving Busch families since 2002.

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