Emiko and her mother Linda have had conversations about Linda’s future care in the past, either in passing or because recent caregiving experiences. Though most of their answers aligned, they noticed small differences in their understanding.

From left to right: Linda, Linda’s mom, and Emiko

Emiko’s answer about the point in getting help, especially about long-term versus short-term care, matched with her mother’s preferences. Emiko added though that this was circumstantial. Linda confirmed and said, “if I wasn’t able to [do daily tasks], that’s when I would want to be in a facility or have someone else, like a [paid] caregiver. I would not want to put that on my family, unless it was a short-term thing.”

The bottom line is that Linda does not want to be a burden on Emiko. Being both a former and current caregiver, Linda has her opinions on care. “[Considering] what we’re experiencing now, I would not want our kids to have to go through any long-term care for us. That’s just a really, really, hard thing to do. Short term, I understand, but long term would be hard.”

The two had a different answer on a couple of the questions. On the topic of life support, Emiko shared, “I put ‘maybe’ on this one, because I think it’s circumstantial.” However, Linda’s answer was definitive. “Disagree. If I was so severely injured or incapable, I wouldn’t want to be living off a machine,” Linda said.

Linda, who is on the “younger” older adult spectrum in her 50’s, stated that the one thing she does have a better idea on is her memorial or funeral plans. This has been a topic of discussion throughout Emiko’s life. Emiko and Linda went to the cemetery plot that Linda and her husband had purchased recently, which is a good picnic place, and made sure that Emiko knew where to go.

“I’ve been talking to Emiko about my memorial plans since she was five, and it’s been changing every single time I see her, but I don’t have any formal plans. But we do have our plot and some of that taken care of already,” Linda said.

“I have confidence in what she has set up for herself, but I think we need to talk about what that stuff is,” Emiko chuckled.

“I need to put it in a Word doc,” Linda said. “With a little spreadsheet, my (music) playlist and everything, including my slideshow I’m going to make.”

“A slideshow for herself, with all the pictures she wants to include,” Emiko laughed.

How did the conversation make them feel?

Linda said the conversation helped her look at next steps. “Oh, I really need to put a lot of this in writing. It’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about because of COVID.”  From recent experience of another family member’s passing, Linda wants to also ensure that her paperwork is in order. “I have taken pictures of a lot of my belongings and would like to document what I want to leave for whom. [And] I think that’s the only thing that would bother me the most, is dying and not knowing where my stuff is going.”

Kranz Family

Emiko thought that the questions were not difficult to answer. “I think because we’ve always been pretty comfortable talking about these things, and especially given the relevance in the past year. I felt fairly comfortable with most of this. I even felt comfortable when I didn’t have a ‘sure’ answer, just because I know that I can have this conversation with my mom, and dad too.”

The strength of their mother-daughter bond showed when Emiko said, “It actually made me grateful for the communication that we have, between the two of us, and yeah, we didn’t match up on every answer, but I can also kind of see where my mom’s reasoning is and maybe my own thoughts influence them. I think the questions were good for having that conversation and outlining what future conversations would look like too.”

The questions gave a different realization for Linda. “It made me realize how often I have these conversations with my husband. And how I really do need to have a sit-down conversation with both of our kids, especially since they’re now both adults. And especially since anything could happen. Because we are getting older, and the answers may change, it would be good to have a living document.”

Are We Prepared?

Each family had different areas of the questionnaire that they were familiar with more than others. But all of the families had some type of conversation at some point about their future care. From the Fukui family knowing the general idea, but using this time to refine the specifics, to the Fujikuni family having a big binder with all of their information, to the Kranz family creating a playlist of songs for Linda’s funeral, the initial discussion have already begun for these families about the parents’ wishes.

Overall, the children we interviewed knew the general idea about their parents’ caregiving wishes. At the same time, each family also saw what their next steps were in solidifying these wishes on paper, and further openness to continue the discussion on caregiving.  

As a community, being proactive as much as possible is important, and that includes the millennial generation. Although the topics may be difficult to understand or think about, any step is a good step to understanding and staying proactive instead of reactive to the future. Being prepared in any capacity will help the next generation of caregivers to care for their loved ones. Start the conversation today, and be sure that you talk about your loved ones’ wishes as well as yours.