Conversations about active senior living communities

Starting the Conversation

Having that initial conversation with your aging parents about senior living can feel overwhelming. The last thing you want is for your parents to feel forced into a situation they don’t want. But you also don’t want to wait to have the talk until it’s too late. It’s a delicate balance to strike. Here are 7 tips for talking openly and productively about transitioning to the next level of care.

1. Start when everyone is still healthy.

The best strategy is to start the conversation while your aging parents are still in good health, not when a crisis arises. That way, you have time to build the conversation slowly over time without panic or pressure.

2. Ask yourself what you want first.

Before speaking to your parents, think about what the ideal situation would be for you? What do you want for your parents? What are your fears and concerns?

3. Consult your siblings beforehand.

Even if everyone can’t be physically present, get everyone’s input and support so that you are on the same page during the process.

Even if everyone can’t be physically present, get everyone’s input and support so that you are on the same page during the process.

4. Keep it casual.

Choose a moment when everyone is rested and well. Consider picking a neutral site to start the conversation—perhaps a quiet restaurant or café. It may be helpful to include a family member or friend who makes your parents feel particularly safe and relaxed.

5. Be patient and start slow.

Don’t assume a “we need to talk” attitude or overwhelm your parents by trying to discuss too much at once. Look at this process as a series of conversations rather than “The Conversation.” You don’t need all the answers today. Try addressing one issue at a time.

6. Keep it simple.

Remember, you’re slowly gathering information with each conversation. Try asking open ended questions. A few suggestions for breaking the ice:

“Mom, I’m thinking about long-term healthcare insurance. What do you think? Do you have any?

“I’m getting ready to write my will. What about you? Can we do the same for you?

“I’ve been reading a lot about planning for care later in life. Have you thought at all about what you want for your future? Are you still able to do the things you want?”

7. Be a partner, not a parent.

Be prepared to listen and show respect for your parents’ feelings. Tell them you care about how they feel and what they want the rest of their life to be like. Reassure them that you’re in this together, with mutual interests and common goals. Together, you’re asking questions, evaluating options and deciding on a plan that everyone is happy with.