Mommy's Favorite Things: Tough Conversations to have with Aging Parents

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Tough Conversations to have with Aging Parents

Watching your parents age can be difficult. Seeing your once hard-working, robust mother and father start to slow down, retire from their careers and experience health scares can bring up many emotions and questions about the future. If you have aging parents, it may be time to broach some sensitive conversations. Through conversations about retirement, aging and death can be awkward and emotional, discussing these topics now can make the hard decisions that lay ahead a bit easier.

Living arrangements

As your parents age, there may be a time when they can no longer live in their current home.  It’s also possible that they may not want to live alone, even if they are able to. While they are still happily residing in their home, start a conversation about where they might wish to live in the future. As a first step, they may wish to downsize to a smaller house or an apartment that is less costly and requires less upkeep. As a family, you may decide that it would be nice for your parents to move into your home so that they can spend more time with their grandchildren. Or, they may wish to move into an assisted living home, where they will have access to around-the-clock care and be able to build friendships with other people of their generation.

Before the issue becomes evident, talk with your parents about what you all feel will be signs that they are ready to move out of their home. You may wish to include signs such as,

  • They feel lonely living alone
  • Routine home maintenance has become too difficult
  • They do not enjoy or are not able to grocery shop
  • They cannot remember to take their medications

Remember to keep this conversation focused on the potential positives of moving out of their home. Whether they will transition to assisted living, or somewhere else, there can be many advantages to the transition, including more free time, new opportunities to meet people, and fresh ways to socialize.


Whether your parents are approaching retirement or have already started drawing Social Security, it is important that you all understand where they stand financially. According to AARP, most people will need to replace 80% of their annual income through investments and Social Security in order to retire comfortably. If your parents have been diligent with savings and fortunate investments, knowing their financial future is secure will give you peace of mind. If their retirement fund is a bit lacking, meeting with a financial planner can be helpful. Starting to work on adjusting their investments and managing their budget before they start to feel financial pressure can make the transition to retirement and beyond much less stressful to them and you.

Life Story

How did your parents meet? What were their favorite toys as they were growing up? What was their first job? Most aging parents had a rich, full life that their children may know little about. Preserve their history by asking them to tell you their life story, bit by bit. Ask questions about their parent, siblings, and parents that may have already passed away. Then, spend time by asking questions about spontaneous things they did, trips they took and things they learned, and events they witnessed. Use your smartphone or another audio recorder to preserve the memories. Not only will you create a record of their life stories, but they will love sharing their stories. And, you will have a treasure to hold on to when they can no longer tell their tales.

End-of-life care and funeral arrangements

Possibly the most difficult conversation to have, but no less necessary, is talking about the time when your parents will pass away. While this conversation will inevitably bring up intense emotions, understanding their wishes and making decisions before they are needed will ease your burden down the road. Have a frank conversation about situations in which they may wish to pursue all medical options and situations where they would prefer to have a Do Not Resuscitate Order.  It will also be helpful to know what type of funeral or celebration of life they wish to have and to start the planning before it is needed.