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Aging and Our Parents

It is never easy to talk to parents about what their wishes are as they age. But it is a conversation that must be had, and more importantly, had before a major crisis occurs. Today, 1 in 5 individuals in the U.S. is 60 years or older. With longer life expectancies, chances are your parents will suffer from a chronic disease, experience challenges associated with limited functional abilities or just have the general impairments associated with old age. It is important for your peace of mind, as well as theirs, to know that their wishes and values are being respected when they are unable to make decisions for themselves.

When talking to your parents about their future, it is important to frame the discussion around the major considerations for aging adults: security, independence, freedom, peace of mind, family, friends and choices.


Approach the conversation with the intention of helping your parents set their own course of action while you guide the discussion. Have a list of things you want to talk about, but don’t feel pressured to cover all the points in one session. Keep it simple. Start slowly with one issue at a time and offer options and choices. Ask open-ended questions and encourage your parents to share their feelings. Together you can formulate a plan to ensure that all their needs are met.


Here is a list of possible topics for discussion:

Legal Issues – At the very least, your parents should have an up- to-date will, a durable power of attorney for both legal and healthcare decisions and a living will. Make sure you have copies of these documents or know where they are located.

Medical Care – Your parents should have one doctor that coordinates all of their care. Make sure they have a list of all medications and supplements that they take. 

Housing – Find out where your parents would like to live if they have to leave their current home. Would they prefer to downsize into a smaller house or would a senior retirement community be their choice? Is it an option for them to live with you? But, make sure you don’t make any promises you can’t keep.

Finances – Most parents would prefer not to discuss finances with their children. But it is important that you know what type of accounts they have and where they are at or at least the name and number of their financial advisor. Also, discuss any life insurance policies they may have.

End of Life Care – If your parents say they would want you to “pull the plug” make sure you know what that means and when it applies.  

Burial Arrangements – This is a discussion most people would prefer not to have, but probably one of the most important. If possible, make an appointment with a funeral home to discuss options and costs. 

If you still feel anxious about starting this type of discussion with your parents, talk to other family members or a professional. You may want to get a neutral party involved. Professionals such as physicians, case managers, social workers, lawyers or financial advisers can help navigate the many issues related to aging. 

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