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GUEST COLUMN: How to Have “The Talk” with Your Aging Parents

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

By Elizabeth Moss

No matter how old you are, talking to your parents about their long-term care needs and finances is just plain uncomfortable for everyone involved. Often adult children notice their parents aren’t able to do as much as they used to. Maybe there are safety concerns such as a fall. Perhaps they are a bit more forgetful. Often these concerns go unspoken and ignored until a crisis is at hand—but it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a second choice, and people who study aging call it ‘the talk.’

The parent may be resistant to sharing information with their “kids” or may even be unaware that they need help. And, across the board, it’s hard to acknowledge that with aging may come a loss of independence and a role reversal when the child becomes the caregiver.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (2005), 60 percent of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is “extremely important,” but more than half of them have NOT communicated their end-of-life wishes.

Here are some tips to help you navigate ‘the talk’ with your parent. Asking the right questions now will help you prevent a crisis in care and help all involved make better decisions.

Steps to Making the Right Decision, at the Right Time and for the Right Place

  1. Be Informed. Gather as much information about the senior’s condition and situation as possible.

  2. Schedule a Family Conference. Meet together as a family with your parent to honestly and openly discuss the “what if’s” of aging. This may be done over Zoom or teleconference to ensure everyone’s safety during COVID-19.

  3. Listen. Learn the preferences, wishes and feelings of your parent about housing, health, finances, insurance, legal documents, crisis care, long-term care and end-of-life issues.

  4. Set Goals. Identify available resources to enrich your parent: spiritually, physically, socially, intellectually and emotionally. Be mindful of helping to maintain their independence as long as possible.

  5. Make Decisions. Help maintain a level of control that is practical, while hearing concerns and fears from your parent as well as input from other family members.

  6. Stay Flexible. Though the unexpected is inevitable, have confidence in your team and know you are not alone.

To help prepare for ‘the talk’ get informed with available resources.

WholeCare has a helpful guide that you may download for free called the Caring and Sharing Guide. It’s 80+ pages of resources, tips and assessments to help you navigate the aging journey. Additionally, AARP has a very helpful booklet that goes into detail on how to get started. You can download Prepare to Care: A Resource Guide for Families.

Elizabeth Moss is Founder and Chief Care Officer at Caregivers by WholeCare, a locally owned and operated in-home care provider. For 24 years, families in Middle Tennessee have trusted Caregivers by WholeCare to provide compassionate senior care for their loved ones. Learn more at or call (615) 235-0614.


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