Everyone wants their parents to live as long as possible, and we try to avoid thinking about their eventual deaths, even as they start to grow old. It’s important to come to terms with the fact that everyone will pass on eventually, however, and it will be a much easier process for everyone involved if you take the time to think about it and prepare long before it becomes necessary. There is also the risk of dementia and reduced cognitive abilities surfacing as your parents’ age. At a certain point, they might no longer be able to make these important decisions for themselves. If not prepared for ahead of time, this can mean stressful and costly legal actions, as they won’t be capable of signing the authority over to their family members on their own either.

When a beloved parent falls sick or develops dementia toward the end of their life, you want to be able to put everything else aside and be with them and the rest of your family focused on them. That’s why it’s better to make important decisions and have the legal plans figured out far ahead of time. Taking the time to consider these decisions and plans together can also help you to better value the time you have remaining.

Getting the Paperwork Done

 The first step in preparing for the end is to create a will. This way parents can take the time to make careful decisions about what they want to do with their assets after they pass. Creating a will is just the beginning, however. You can designate an executor to act on the desires of the will, whether that’s a family member or a third party like a lawyer. It’s recommended that individuals also record their desires concerning medical care at the end of their life. Making decisions ahead of time about what doctors should or shouldn’t do to keep them alive can avoid enormous amounts of heartbreak and unnecessary pain in the end. This is called a living will.

Another important step is to have your parents sign over power of attorney to someone they trust. If they fall into a coma or become mentally incompetent in making legal and medical decisions for themselves, there needs to be someone else prepared to make those choices. Maintaining financial records and keeping up a list of accounts and passwords is also a relatively small step that can help avoid serious headaches later on.

Finding Solutions When It Seems Too Late

Sometimes, however, health conditions can creep up unexpectedly. By the time you want to address these issues, one or both of your parents might no longer be in any condition to make these important decisions, whether it’s because of a disability or some form of dementia or mental degeneration. In such a situation you may need to pursue legal action to become a guardian or conservator of your loved one. The main differences between guardianships and conservatorships are that guardians have more power to make personal and medical choices, whereas conservators are more limited to handling financial concerns.