Topics to Discuss with Your Aging Parents

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If you can think ahead and have intentional conversations with loved ones, your communication and closeness will only improve. Maybe you’d like to talk to your aging parents about some important topics like finances and medical decisions, but you’re not sure where to begin.

Here’s how to get started so your conversations with your parents can be productive and helpful.

How to Talk to Aging Parents About Their Future

Bringing up these sensitive topics as a shared conversation shows your parents that you’re ready to hear their thoughts. If you don’t know what your parents are thinking, how can you help them plan? Let your parents know the conversation is about them and their wishes for the future. Give your parents as much agency as possible.

Resist any temptation to jump ahead and put a plan together yourself. Simply guide the conversation with questions that allow your parents to express their thoughts, feelings, concerns and plans. You should also share what’s important to you, but start by listening to understand the values, goals and needs of your parents. This shift of perspective is essential.

Your parents have probably heard the dreaded phrase of “parenting your parent” so there may well be a natural suspicion of your attempts to broach subjects they deem personal or private. It’s your job to reassure them that you want to be on the same team.

You want to be a partner in their best future. Your goal is to collaborate with them to make sure that their needs, beliefs, and values are upheld. Reassure them that as children of aging parents, you are never attempting to switch roles.

Topics for Seniors to Discuss

There’s a lot you should cover with aging parents. However, you should frame these conversations around the most important considerations for aging older adults: security, independence, freedom, peace of mind, family, friends, and choices.

Be sure to ask, “What is most important to you?” This will help you find out whether or not your concerns are the same as your parents. Let them know what you have identified and ask if they ever think of those same concerns or if they have identified others. Have they considered the same things you have, or are they thinking in a different direction?

Here are few topic areas that are important to discuss with your parent:

Legal Issues: 

At the very least your parent should have an up-to-date will, a durable power of attorney for both legal and healthcare decisions, and a living will. You should know where these documents are, and that your parent’s physician has a copy of documents relating to healthcare. While most documents can be drawn up on one’s own, it’s a good idea to see an attorney specializing in elder law who can advise you on your particular situation.

Estate Plan: 

If their plan is to pass property to family members, have they talked to a financial advisor about the best way to do that? How can their assets help provide for their care in case of a potential decline in health or incapacity? It is important to speak with a professional, and ensure that it is reviewed regularly.

Medical Expenses: 

Medicare doesn’t pay for long-term care, and an annual nursing home bill can easily reach over $100,000. What is your plan for paying for long-term care, should the need arise? Does your parent have long-term care insurance? Is he or she near the level for Medicaid benefits? Simplify your parent’s finances as much as possible through direct deposit and automatic bill pay.

Medical Care: 

Does your parent have one doctor who can coordinate care? It’s important to have someone who is the “captain of the ship.” Do your parents keep a list of every medication they take? Take a written list of all medications and supplements to every medical appointment.


This can be a tough conversation to have, especially with a healthy parent. Find out where your parent would like to live if she had to leave her current home. Do your parents want to stay in their current home as long as possible? Or are they considering “downsizing” or moving to a senior living community?

Whatever their choices, help them find options. What home care services are available? What options do they have for personal care? Be careful not to make any promises you can’t keep.

Home Modifications: 

Is your parents’ home keeping up with their needs? What repairs and modifications could make their house, apartment or condominium safer and more convenient? From non-slip stair coverings to walk-in shower stalls, find out how to improve their home so they can safely live independently.


Do your parents have a plan to stay active? Study after study shows that regular physical activity is the most important contributor to healthy aging. No matter what a person’s condition, adding exercise is of benefit. Meaningful social interaction is also vital to overall health for people of every age. Recent studies show that older adults who socialize, not only with family members, but also with other groups, have better emotional, intellectual and physical health.

Home Safety: 

Many older adults are reluctant to discuss their risk or experiences with falls. But did you know that fall protection is actually an important part of planning for the future? Falls are one of the leading causes of incapacity and one risk factor that we can take proactive steps to avoid. Conduct regular home safety inspections to identify areas of high risk in the home, and make changes where necessary.

End-of-Life Care: 

This is a conversation no one wants to have, but it’s so important. If your parent says he would want you to “pull the plug,” make sure you know what that means and in what situations it applies. While talking about end-of-life care is hard, it’s also rewarding. It can bring a new level of trust and intimacy into your relationship.

These topics are intended to provide a framework for people who would like to speak to their aging parents about planning for the future. If the “teamwork” aspect isn’t working as well as you’d like, consider adding outside members to the team. Perhaps a known healthcare provider, physician, financial planner or even a trusted family friend can provide valuable help and guidance.

Start the Conversation

The best advice is to plan carefully and think through such conversations so that they are as positive and productive as possible. Write down what you think needs to be discussed so you don’t forget anything.

Try not to approach this important opportunity as “The Conversation,” but as an ongoing series of conversations. Address one issue at a time rather than trying to resolve everything at once. It is less intimidating that way. If you start small, you are more likely to start. And your parent will be more likely to participate.

If you still feel unsure about starting this type of discussion with your parents, run your ideas past other family members or a professional. You may want to consider getting a neutral party involved. Professionals such as physicians, case managers, social workers, lawyers or financial advisers can help you and your parents navigate aging.

You might also consider a social worker, geriatric care manager or representative from a local senior center or retirement community. Their expertise and experience can be invaluable in helping support you and your parents find solutions to your challenges and provide a positive path to all the places life can go.


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