Q: My dad is 75. Although he is in relatively good health, he has been alone since my mom died and I worry about him. He does not appear to be doing much to prepare himself for when his time comes. He does not have a will, he refused to consider an advanced care directive when he spent three days in the hospital last winter, and he is secretive about where he holds what kinds of bank accounts.
My husband and I have built a successful farm. We do not need whatever inheritance my dad might have for us, but we think that he could ease some of his own stress if he started to put his house in order. Is there anything that we could say or do to help my dad recognize his own mortality?
A: It is hard for me to believe that a 75-year-old man, especially one who has watched his wife die, is not aware of the inevitability of his own death. Many of his friends and acquaintances may have already died or will in the coming years.
My guess is your father is well aware of his mortality.
Aging brings with it two processes. One is called end of life care, the other is preparing to die. End of life care includes the responsibilities you outlined in your letter, preparing wills, putting together advanced care directives and settling financial accounts.
Wills give family members clear direction for inheritances and re-duce the probability of family squabbling and tension.
Advanced care directives remove doubt and indecision from medical care providers and let them do what they need to do if your father develops a serious illness.
And settling private financial accounts keeps at bay assets and debits that might otherwise haunt not only your father but you and your family.
Preparing to die means that your father needs to look back at his life and view his triumphs and challenges while also anticipating his own death, that moment in time when he will go through a life change greater than any he has yet experienced. This is a challenging task.
Your letter suggests that you and your husband are focused on end of life care. He does not appear to be interested at the moment. Perhaps you should change your approach and spend more time listening to your dad resolve his life’s journey while he is wondering what is ahead for him.
You then might discover he is keenly aware of his own mortality, but simply looking at it differently than you.
Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: [email protected]