Planning for your final years helps you and your children adjust with a little less guilt


With many of us living longer, the best gift you can give your adult children is to complete your estate and eldercare plan and tell them about it.


This article is part of an ongoing initiative from RBC Wealth Management to highlight women-led insights from across the bank. The expertise highlighted covers a variety of topics and themes which have also been featured in the Financial Post—Canada’s source for news and analysis in today’s competitive business environment.

By Louise Stevenson, investment advisor
RBC Dominion Securities, Inc.

My siblings and I won the lottery when it comes to our parents. Unfortunately, our mother passed away from a brain tumour almost 17 years ago and our father (otherwise known as “the Energizer Bunny”), having defied the cancer odds three times, is entering his mid-90s, albeit with some dementia; a miracle of defiant determination more than modern medicine.

My father would be the first to say that it was not meant to be this way. He had every intention—and told us as much many, many times as children—of leaving our childhood home feet first and well before our supremely social, fun, organized and generally whirling dervish of a mother. But fate had other plans for him and for us.

Caring for our mom was the first time we had to navigate the “I think she would want this” guilt road. There was more than one teary conversation, and I wish she had written her wishes down and shared them with us.

About five years after Mom died, it became apparent the house was getting to be too much, so we, along with Dad, made the very tough decision to sell it. With a lot of trepidation, our father moved into his own condo. He grumbled and we felt guilty.

After he managed to land in hospital multiple times with food poisoning (I think it is a Depression-era thing to think that even when grey, food is still more than fine to eat), we moved him into an independent living facility. He grumbled, but he did come to enjoy the social camaraderie with other residents, some of whom he had known for many decades.

Still, we felt guilty. Some of that came from knowing it wasn’t exactly where he wanted to be, but we knew it was the best place for him mentally, physically and emotionally. This time, we spoke with him and knew he wanted to remain independent (and alive, even if in poor health) for as long as possible. Good to know. Helps with the guilt.

Then COVID-19 hit at about the same time as my dad’s dementia became much worse. For the first few months of the pandemic, my brother, his very patient spouse and adult son took care of my father in their home until his behaviour became too toxic and interruptive (a sad side effect of dementia at times).

Our dad returned to the independent living facility, but he started wandering and getting lost. We knew things were bad when one staff member saw my father during the height of the COVID-19 scare on the subway on his own, without his cane or mask. We made the tough decision to move him to the “memory floor” of his residence.

You can only imagine how that move, coupled with COVID-19, dialed up the guilt dialogue.

I had more than one person tell me, “I could never put my mom/dad into a place like that,” or, “We are a really close family, so we would never put them into an old age home,” or, “In my culture, we do not put our parents in those places.”

I know these comments were not said out of malice, but because of their beliefs. The thing is, sometimes those places are the best places for a parent. In some cases, they are the only place for a person to remain physically safe and emotionally secure.

I am grateful there are a lot more tools and education to make the journey of eldercare a little less daunting and certainly a lot less frustrating.

The reality is we are all going to live longer. Educating yourself on the different options and ensuring your financial plan is reflective of your wishes (some of those options may be expensive, but that is a topic for another day) is paramount.

I wish my parents had taken more time to write down exactly how they wanted to be cared for and did so based on a few different scenarios. That would have saved a few teary calls over the years.

The best gift you can give your adult children is to complete your estate and eldercare plan and tell them about it—this is important—when they are all together. Reviewing your written plan when all your adult children are present will allow them to ask questions and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Hopefully, we can then all lose the guilt. After all, if we want to spend our days aging where we live now or in a facility that is close to where we last lived, or in a facility that has lots of green space and macramé classes, so be it.

Never mind that your child might want to know they are looking after you in your senior years. They may have some thoughts on the subject, but it’s best to get those out in the open so you can move onto plan B well in advance.

If you do some planning and communicate your plans with your children, they will know that as nutty as your choice seems to them, that it is your choice and how you want to spend your money. That means instead of feeling guilty, your children can focus on enjoying their time with you knowing you are living the way you want to be living. What a gift that will be.

This article was originally published in the Financial Post.

RBC Wealth Management is a business segment of Royal Bank of Canada. Please click the “Legal” link at the bottom of this page for further information on the entities that are member companies of RBC Wealth Management. The content in this publication is provided for general information only and is not intended to provide any advice or endorse/recommend the content contained in the publication.

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