As your parents are getting older, you might need to have some difficult discussions with them. One of these discussions is about what types of health care they want when they can't make the decisions for themselves.
Thinking about these matters isn't necessarily pleasant, but it is important so that you can make sure your parents only have the treatments they are willing to undergo. Here are some questions you may wish to discuss:
What kind of treatments and assistive services do they want?
Some medical care, such as life support, isn't desirable to many people. Other people can't stand the thought of passing away without trying every possible avenue for remaining alive. Find out where your parents stand on these issues so that you know what to expect when they are incapacitated. One thing to note is that they might need to sign a "do not resuscitate" order if they don't want any of these measures taken. This is a form that can be revoked at any time.
Who will make decisions for them?
Your parents need to choose who will make medical decisions on their behalf when they aren't able to do so. They might choose you for this designation, but don't be surprised if they pick someone else. Sometimes, parents try to prevent their children from having to make agonizing decisions about what to do for their health care.
Discuss other medical decisions with them.
These can include if they want to accept nutrition and hydration through intravenous methods. Talk about other treatments, such as hospice and palliative care, so that you know exactly what they want.
The outcome of your discussions should be written down. Two aspects of your parents' estate plan can help with health care matters: Powers of attorney for health care and living wills. Together, these documents outline a plan for their medical care. Hopefully, they won't be needed, but they will provide peace of mind.
Don't let your parents leave their future medical care to chance. Learn all you can now rather than later for your sake as well as their's.