Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Millennials are fluent in the current political debate over the legacy of the Boomer generation, but when it comes to the personal decisions tied to a parent's end-of-life care, this generation is clueless

My most important holiday gift was something no one places on their wish list: a visit to the ER with my mom.

Just over 60, my mom was struggling with a strong cough and weak appetite following a relatively minor surgery; however, her symptoms were likely made worse by an autoimmune disorder. So when her fever neared 101.5, we quickly made the decision to end the Hallmark movie and head to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center at 11:30 p.m.

While I attempted to stave off sleep in an otherwise empty emergency room, this paradoxical present brought fear, anxiety and panic into what was otherwise a fairly normal Christmas at our family home in Tualatin.

Upon reflection, it was a needed shock to me and my siblings: prep now for the inevitable emotional and economic toll of aging parents. This shock registered even though we knew she was more fragile than the typical baby boomer given her medical history.

Like a small tremor in an earthquake-prone area, this bump in the starry night hinted at an inevitable big one. Today it was pneumonia, tomorrow it may be something that requires much more than just one sleepless night in the ER.

Millennials like me are fluent in the current political debate over the legacy of my mom's generation, but when it comes to the personal decisions tied to a parent's end-of-life care, my generation is tongue-tied.

As has been extensively covered, millennials have struggled to develop independence from the boomers. "Kids today" may live in their parents' basement, tap into their parents' insurance and depend on their parents for financial stability and guidance. So when a big emergency strikes a parent or loved one, millennials will be left without the resources required to navigate the aftershocks.

The turbulence generated by an unforeseen illness will be felt particularly hard by those millennials with too few resources to care for their ailing parents and those who have grown so dependent on their parents that they are incapable of making tough decisions on their own, let alone decisions as important as parental health outcomes.

Millennials need to ready their emergency kits, because not everyone will get my drill. I had the "gift" of helping my mom recover from pneumonia. She was cognitively and physically strong enough to help me and my family locate all of her documents, get her into the ER and verify her insurance information when required by the hospital.

In short, she showed me what I need to have ready when anything larger strikes.

I'm still not ready to completely handle the "big one," but I know how to prep. Other millennials should similarly take the time to say, "OK boomer, walk me through your medical history ..." and start methodically preparing for the unexpected and undesirable realities of a generation nearing its next chapter.

This is the millennial version of "the talk."

Rather than birds and bees, this generation needs to talk about wills and trustees. A millennial should walk away from this talk knowing their parent's financial standing, health insurance information and preferences for end-of-life care. It's true that this conversation is likely to be just as uncomfortable as the traditional "talk," but it is just as important.

I hope my generation resolves to address the political, economic and environmental maladies left by boomers while also helping their boomer relatives get through the coming difficult decades.

Washington County native Kevin Frazier is a student at the University of California's Berkeley School of Law

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