Six Questions To Ask An Aging Loved One—And Yourself

By Jean

There’s no escaping it. At some point, our loved ones will all decline in health, and eventually pass away. Few of us enjoy thinking about this inevitable occurrence, but I guarantee, thinking about it, making plans and, more importantly, making memories with your loved ones will ease the discomfort.

To help you in this process, take time to ask your loved ones meaningful questions, while you still can. While some questions are necessary, others may help you uncover hidden or cherished memories of those who are dearest to you. Consider the following:

1. Have I, or my aging loved one, done the necessary?
As you pay special attention to the people you love who are aging—and this includes you—there are certain legal documents that must be in place. I call these the necessary, the dreaded and the boring: power of attorney(s), advanced care directives, and estate plans, including wills or trusts. We can’t predict when we’ll need this information, but you’ll be glad these documents are in order when the time comes.

There are two good reasons you may not be aware of regarding why you should take care of them: 1. People who finish their estate plans live, on average, 3 ½ years longer! 2. These documents are one of the greatest gifts you can give to a loved one. When my brother David died unexpectedly at age 50, his handwritten (but notarized) will not only provided directions for handling his small estate, but gave me great comfort as I laughed out loud at his humor.

Don’t delay. Extend your life and take the first step. Pause right now—pick up the phone or send an email for an appointment to visit with an attorney. Your spirits will lift as you take this action.

Now, let’s move on to more delightful and memorable questions to ask

2. What’s the best decision you ever made?
Once you start thinking about this question, your life instantly feels good! If you ask it of an aging loved one, you lead them to a place of great enjoyment. “Which one was the very best?” What a wonderful thing to think about. It leads to this next question, “What other decisions can I still make that will count among my best?”

3. What do you wish you would have said to someone, but haven’t yet, or never did?
Here’s a chance for a do-over. Or, even if the time has passed, speaking out loud or writing down what you wish you’d said will help set your mind and heart at ease.

4. What’s this best advice you ever received?
The best advice you’ve ever received doesn’t necessarily need to be especially deep or philosophical. Perhaps, just something that has “stuck” with you. As a youngster and an adult, whenever I left my parents’ home, whether for a meeting or a social outing, my dad would give a nod of his head and a salute with his hand and call out, “Have fun!” This reminder that life is best when spiced with merriment remains fresh in my mind.

5. What was your most spiritual experience?
Spiritual experiences are the pathways to peace, inspiration or action. It’s vital to seek and honor them. When I was the lead caregiver for my Mom and Dad, my anger at my sister Shirley for not being present or doing more was eating at me. During prayer time one morning, I saw Shirley and her husband Al bathed in a golden haze in the sky. Instantly my heart was healed. Seek the spiritual.

6. What is one thing you’d still like to do?
The answer to this depends on your age and state of health. My mom always loved watching clouds and during her last months of life, clouds remained a fascination. The drives we took, and the skies and clouds we saw, were a gift to both of us.

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The greatest gift we give to others is our attention. Think of some of your favorite people. Seek them out while there is still time and ask some questions. Create memories and strengthen love. Don’t forget to ask yourself, too!

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.