10 Helpful Tips For Talking With Aging Parents About The Future

Whether or not we want to admit it, our parents grow old, too, and when this happens, there are certain tasks, concerns, and scenarios that need to be tended to. As our parents age, the necessity for difficult conversations increases, and the time to engage in them decreases. Although this is challenging for us to understand and to take part in, and sometimes it is hard for your parents to discuss these topics, having these conversations ultimately benefits everyone and makes a difficult situation easier in the end.

A parent’s death is heartbreaking in all cases; however, being confused about their wishes after death or feeling guilty about neglecting these conversations while they were still with you does not make this horrible time any easier. We provide you with a complete guide to dealing with difficult conversations with your aging parents and how to discuss the future with them while you have the chance, so the time of their deaths can be as peaceful for them and you as possible.

Why You Should Talk To Your Aging Parents About The Future

Talking to your elderly parents is not an easy task, but it is still a very important and valuable conversation to have. There are many things that both you and your parents should think about and should discuss; the end-of-life involves many decisions to make for aging parents and talking about these ahead of time makes the endeavor much more relaxing, accurate, and doable.

Although much of the focus during this time is on death, studies have shown that families engaging in open conversations about planning in advance of death and using joint decision-making processes may promote the quality of both life and death of the person at risk as well as their family members (Lee and Ng).

It is beneficial for everyone to persevere through the tough, uncomfortable, or sad parts of an end-of-life conversation with a parent.


As unfortunate as it is to acknowledge, you will not always have the opportunity to have this conversation with your parents. We do not like to think about the day that they are gone; however, that day will come, and it will be much more difficult to deal with if you have other stressors and worries accumulating because you did not get around to having this difficult conversation with elderly parents.

If your parents are nearing the end of their lives, this is the perfect—and only—time you will have to ask those important questions that you never got around to as a teenager or adult; incorporate these discussions into your conversation about their future, because the opportunity may disappear without warning.


We have so much love for our parents, and we want their end-of-life care to be as excellent as it can be, and we want it to be close to what they want; although we know our parents deeply, the easiest way to ensure that we know their wishes is by talking about it. There may come a day when your parents are unable to make decisions about their life, and when that day comes it is best to know what their decision would be.

Senior Living Conditions

Housing decisions are often a major part of conversations with aging or sick parents. When your parents are unable to live on their own, it is important to understand what they want and what is best for them. This may mean hiring a personal support worker so that they can stay at home.

Your parent may request that you or another family member check in on them regularly or allows them to move in. You may need to discuss facilities like nursing homes and retirement homes or look into hospice care.

There are many options for your aging parents. Speak with them on housing matters so that when the time comes when a decision needs to be made, you know what will make them happiest as they live out their days.

End-Of-Life Care

Similar to living situations, it is important to talk to your parents about how and by whom they wished to be cared for as they near the end of their lives. This conversation requires you to understand the abilities and limitations of your parents.

Some places allow elders to be very independent and care mostly for themselves with some help, but if your parents are having more trouble living on their own then they can be moved into a building where they have constant access to help.

Your parents may struggle with leaving their home or being taken care of in a strange new place by unknown people; they may wish to be taken into the home of a family member and spend the rest of their days being looked after by a loved one. In this case, although it is what your parents want, you must assess the situation and think about your own abilities and limitations.

Funeral Or Memorial Arrangements

One of the hardest parts of organizing a parent’s funeral or memorial is trying to make it representative of who they were and what they wanted. By discussing this ahead of time with your aging parents, you can alleviate a lot of your own stress that you would feel on that day as well as fulfill your parents’ wishes to the fullest.

You can discover if there are certain people who they want to speak at their funeral, specific music to be played, a desired location, and so on. Many elderly people wish only to be celebrated with a celebration of life, rather than mourned at a wake or funeral; all of this information is valuable to hear from them.


Sometimes, in unfortunate situations, the wishes of a deceased person go unfulfilled in terms of money and belongings. When these matters are not settled ahead of time, there can often be many legalities and issues can arise.

To avoid these difficulties, ensure that your parents let you know and solidify where all of their possessions go after they are gone. This certifies that each person that was important to your parents will receive what is meant for them and there will be no confusion as to where everything belongs.


Many things need to be in place before your parents pass, and these can be tricky to deal with after the fact. It is important to have a completed will, to determine what happens to the deceased’s organs, to know who the power of attorney is, to decide if a DNR is to be put in place, and so on; these are difficult issues that could arise if these matters are not discussed and outlined ahead of time.

Don't leave your loved ones in the dark. Learn more on How To Write Your Own Last Will And Testament.

Completing this sort of paperwork with your parents is one task, but it is crucial that once all of the documentation is done, someone or multiple people know where it is kept and can access it when needed.


In such a time of difficulty like death, the last thing you or your elderly parents want is any sort of surprise or confusion. You and your parents should both know what to expect during this period. Being unprepared or being taken off guard is never easy and can result in other problems like distressing emotions, legal or ethical errors, and rushed decisions.

Living Situation

For your aging parents, a sudden or unknown change in living situations can be extremely stressful and upsetting. Having a conversation about what they want when they can no longer live on their own or about the feasible options for them can prevent some affliction they may feel in a new period of their life.

It is also important that you learn how to adjust to the living situations and understand what is expected of you; specifically, if you decide to take on the task of caring for elderly parents and allowing them to move in with you, take the time to consider everything and ensure that you are making the right choice. We all want to help our parents, but we need to make sure it is really for the best.


Being left with unexpected financial issues to deal with from your parents’ death is not ideal; make sure that you and your parents get clear on finances and on what their honest money situation is. Although finances are the last thing you may want to discuss while trying to cherish your time with your family, it will allow for a more seamless closure when the time of death arrives.

Your parents do not want to leave you with an extra burden when they’re gone, so remind them of financial matters when discussing end-of-life decisions.

Burial Or Cremation

Find out how your parents want to be honored in death. Do they want to be buried, and if so, do they want to share a gravestone or do they wish to have their own? Or is being cremated their wish? Would they want companion cremation urns or to each have a unique one? Does one want to be buried and the other cremated?

As you can see, an aspect of death that seems like a simple choice may come with a lot of questions and scenarios. Understand both of your parents’ wishes and make sure that they are happy with their decisions. If they have difficulties deciding or they cannot agree, peacefully help guide them to a decision that suits both of them.

While you discuss this with your parents, consider asking them their thoughts on pieces like cremation jewelry. Would they mind if you or other loved ones kept some of their ashes in a necklace, bracelet, or some other sort of jewelry to keep with you? Do they have a preference for how they would like to be represented in jewelry after death? 

These pieces of jewelry for remembrance could be made even more meaningful for you if your parents helped hand-pick the piece they loved best. If you or your parents want to find out more when discussing jewelry for cremation, our site has many resources to help you and pages that answer all of your questions. We have collections that offer rings, bracelets, keychains, and other beautiful pieces like jewelry made from ashes; perhaps you and your parents can sift through the options and decide on a piece that you will cherish forever and that they will feel is suitable.


Approaching end-of-life care is difficult enough as it is for your aging parents, but this can be increasingly hard if they are suffering from any physical or cognitive illnesses. Having these types of conversations about the future allows you to offer to help your parents or to step in and handle the parts that they cannot tend to.

If you and your parents work together during this time it can make things more enjoyable and easier for everyone.

Senior Housing Options

Your aging parents may not want to or may not be capable of looking into future living options on their own. They may need you to help research the best facilities for them or to visit any possible homes for them. It can take a lot of effort for the elderly to make a trip to a nursing or retirement home, especially if they are having anxious or angry thoughts about this new senior estate planning; if you can take over and do some of these things for them, it can prevent more problems and can keep your parents feeling at ease.

Will Planning

Your parents may need your guidance or advice when it comes to organizing their will. By helping them organize their belongings properly, you can make sure that their final wishes come true after death. They may not know exactly how to execute their wishes and they may have you figure it out and ensure that everything ends up the way they want and with who they want it. It can be a complicated and sad process, so you being by their side to console and aid them can go a long way.

Memorial Planning

Talking to your parents about how they want their funeral to play out is helpful; however, you can encourage them to plan their memorial so they are completely satisfied with it and you can be there to help them make decisions. We have a guide on our site that you could provide to them to make it easy to plan their own funeral and to help them know that their memorial service will accurately represent their wishes.

With Their Pets

Often elderly people stress over what will happen to their pets when they can no longer care for them or if they pass away; by discussing this with your parents if they have pets, you can alleviate their minds from one of the worries they are facing.

To help with your aging parents’ pets, you can offer to take them on as your own if the case arises. You could also tell your parents that you will find a family member or friend who will welcome them in, or look into local shelters and ask about their policies. There are many ways you could aid your parents in this difficult time; it is hard to think about leaving your friends and family, but also about saying goodbye to your furry companions.


Your aging parents have many thoughts, emotions, and concerns on their minds as they approach the end of their lives. Sometimes the most meaningful thing you can do for them is to remind them that you are there to support and help in any way you can.

Having these difficult conversations lets them know that you are thinking of them at that you want this time to be as carefree and enjoyable as possible. It allows them to feel secure in the knowledge that you genuinely care about their wishes and that you want to listen to and honor them even after they are gone.

Who Can Help You Discuss The Future With Your Aging Parents?

The process of dealing with end-of-life decisions is not easy for your parents, but it is also an extremely taxing task for you. It is important that you do not try to handle everything on your own and that you reach out for help from people who love you and your parents. In a situation like this, the roles of parent and child are reversed because you become the caregiver, and this role increases as your parents age or get sicker; this means that caring for elderly parents can be very demanding (Luichies et al.).

There are many people you can go to at this time to seek help, whether to help you prepare for the discussion, aid you in having the conversation with your parents, or assist you in dealing with the possible aftermath of a difficult chat.


In most cases, while one parent is having a hard time with aging or an illness, the other parent is fairly healthy and is able to help with most of the tasks of caring for an aging parent. It is valuable for you two to use each other to get through this period and to work together to make the best decisions regarding your other loved one.

It is also likely that your parents have spent more time together than you have with them; this means that they may understand each other’s wishes slightly more than you would, which provides valuable insight when making housing, burial, or memorial arrangements. They also may be able to converse more easily and make the conversation more casual. This time can be devastating for both of you, so it is important to support each other.


Working together with your sibling or siblings while figuring out your parents’ future or discussing it with them can help in many ways. It becomes a family endeavor to ensure that everything is the way they want it and that everything is complete. It also allows for different perspectives and your parents may enjoy having the wonderful insight of their children.

You and your siblings know your parents better than anyone—they shaped you and loved you. There is no better help than them when it comes to organizing the best end-of-life arrangements for your parents.


Having your partner by your side while you engage with your parents may help you remain confident and rooted in the discussion. They are there to support you when you need it and remind you that you have help by your side; discussing your aging parents’ future is hard to do alone, so having someone with you who you love and trust can be very beneficial.

Having your partner by your side while you engage with your parents may help you remain confident and rooted in the discussion. They are there to support you when you need it and remind you that you have help by your side; discussing your aging parents’ future is hard to do alone, so having someone with you who you love and trust can be very beneficial.


If your parents are suffering from health conditions it is valuable to get their doctor’s or nurse’s input, especially if they had a long-term care worker helping them. These people have personal knowledge about your parents because of the time they’ve spent together, but they also understand the medical aspect of what your parents are dealing with.

It is important to know exactly what your parents’ medical needs are before making any major decisions.

Having the physician involved in the conversation could be helpful to you because they can provide unemotional and logical advice, whereas your parents may see your ideas as sentimental or rash. If their doctor can point them in the best direction, they are less likely to argue or refuse.


You could ask for the help from one of your friends to stand by your side during this conversation; perhaps you have a friend who has experienced the same thing with their parents and they can provide you with valuable help, or they can talk to your parents about how well things turned out for their parents.

Hearing about a first-hand experience could help your parents relax and listen to a conversation that they may have been having trouble with.

Another option is asking one of your parents’ close friends to help you navigate the discussion of future plans. They can keep the conversation friendly and easygoing, and they may provide information or advice that is not familial. They may also have had a conversation similar to this with their own children, and they can reassure your parents that it is painless and beneficial.


It is always easier to deal with a tough situation after hearing about others who have gone through the same thing. You can ask around for a fellow senior to help you prepare for a conversation; they could tell you what made their experience better or worse. They can also help your parents feel heard and more open to a conversation because they can relate to each other.

Where Is The Best Place To Talk About Your Aging Parent's Future?

Taking into account where you initiate a conversation about planning for your aging parents’ future is significant for the discussion to go as pleasantly and easily as possible. The environment can impact the delivery and the outcome of your discussion with your parents.


The ideal place to have this hard talk with your parents is where they are most comfortable, which is typically their home. This could also be a cottage or a park they enjoy going to; however, being at home where you have access to all the resources and areas to gather is the best option.

If your parents are in a place that they feel safe in and a place that perhaps elicits some nostalgic feelings, they may be more likely to engage in a difficult discussion. They can sit in their favorite chair or have their pet by their side, and these things can be significant in making a conversation go smoothly. Also, sometimes being surrounded by the things that mean most to a person and what they will miss when they are going will encourage them to deal with the difficult matters of death.


As hard as a conversation with your elderly parents can be, the last thing you need is distractions or interruptions. Although a secluded place like a park may be an effective discussion spot, other busy public areas like restaurants, arenas, or stores will not result in an effective conversation. Your parents will likely feel uncomfortable, unprepared, and distracted. This is a very important conversation and you do not want other people listening in, cutting into the dialogue, or any unprecedented things to happen while you are out.

Even if you know that their home is full of other family members or they are likely to watch the television or do cooking, take them somewhere that facilitates conversation rather than hinders it. This also means considering possibilities of problems arising. For example, this may not be a discussion to have while traveling because if emotions become overwhelming, you or your parents may need time and space to re-set.


Unfortunately, sometimes we do not get to these difficult conversations with our elderly parents before they have to be taken into care in a nursing home or hospital. In that case, although it is not ideal, it is almost more important to have that conversation. It is crucial that you understand their wishes and concerns while you have the chance.

If this is the case for you, try to make the space as inviting and home-like as possible. Consider bringing them their favorite comfort food or playing the kind of music they like. It is likely they do not want to be having this conversation with you in the hospital either, so make it as calm and pleasant as you can.

Where Is The Best Place To Talk About Your Aging Parent's Future?

We understand that talking to your aging parents about their future can seem like an impossible task and depending on how your parents are dealing with the process of growing old, this conversation can become easier or much more difficult. You should understand that as tough as it is for you to discuss these end-of-life matters with your parents, it is just as or more difficult for them to recognize the necessity for this conversation as well.

To make this process as seamless, peaceful, and valuable as it should be, we have compiled a list of helpful tips so that you can feel confident going into such a tough conversation with your elderly parents. Here are the tips to do beforehand, to do for them and to do for yourself.


Being prepared for this discussion will set you up for the most success. You do not want to feel lost in the conversation or forget any important points. It will be much easier for you and your aging parents to have a healthy, productive conversation if there is some sort of structure; being disorganized may cause frustration which can in turn escalate other problems that you want to try to avoid in a tough time like this.

Consider making a checklist for talking to elderly parents and use this to guide your discussion and to ensure that you do not skip over anything important to talk about.

1. Hold A Family Meeting

To ensure that everyone is on the same page before you initiate a discussion with your parents, plan a family gathering; at this time, everyone can raise questions or concerns that they have, and they also may have helpful tips to offer you themselves. This is a difficult time, so coming together to deal with it as a family can make it a little bit easier.

2. Plan The Conversation

As we suggested before, having some sort of checklist for talking to aging parents or even a rough outline or list of topics you want to cover in your conversation will prove very beneficial. You can rest assured that you are not leaving out any significant information and your parents will see that this is important to you and that it has been well thought out.

They will not feel as if the conversation has been sprung on them out of nowhere and your evident concern and effort may encourage them to be more cooperative.

3. Find A Conversation Starter

Often starting the conversation is the hardest part; no one wants to bring up death around their aging parents. Before you go talk to them, brainstorm some possible ways you could slide into this important conversation.

You could casually ask, “what do you think will happen to the house when you don’t live there anymore?” A question like this keeps the discussion conversational and casual, and eventually, you can dive deeper into your questions about your parents’ futures.

4. Visit Possible Facilities

If you come to your parents with information prepared, like good facilities or possible living situations, it will be less for them to think through or worry about. They will appreciate the effort you have gone through to ensure they are safe and comfortable when the time comes for these decisions to be made.

This step could come after the discussion if you think your parents would rather accompany you, but sometimes that is not the case or it is difficult to get them to these communities. Bringing your parents your thoughts and opinions on local retirement homes or speaking to possible nurses to hire could help your parents feel less overwhelmed.


This conversation is not easy for anyone, but your parents especially have probably tried to avoid this day or tried to distract themselves from thinking about any end-of-life matters. Try to make this as easy as possible for them; this will also help you have less distress when speaking to them.

5. Make Them Comfortable

Your conversation could be greatly influenced if you or your parents are feeling uncomfortable or threatened. Make sure that they are ready to engage in the conversation and that they feel welcomed and secure wherever they are. Try to catch them in good moods or avoid bringing up the discussion after a long, hard day.

6. Ask Questions

Sometimes your aging parents will be confused or overwhelmed, and they will not know all of the tasks that need to be sorted out before they are gone. If you have questions to elderly parents, this can take off some pressure and allow them to simply give you what you need to deal with end-of-life matters.

Questions are also a great way to find out how they really feel rather than you just giving them advice. Some examples of questions could be:

  • Where do you keep your will and other important paperwork?
  • If you cannot live on your own, where would you like to go?
  • How would you like your memorial service to look?

7. Take Your Time

It can be overwhelming to try to talk about everything at once. Consider breaking down the conversation into digestible topics so that your parents can have time to think about each matter separately. If you have pamphlets or videos that could help them think about these topics, give them time to look at them and then organize a time to come back to the discussion.

You want to get the discussion settled before it’s too late, but you also do not want it to be an unpleasant and rushed experience.

8. Be Honest

We know that you care for your parents and you do not like to see them upset, but it is important to be honest during this conversation. Do not leave out difficult topics. Be honest with your concerns and questions and tell them how you truly feel about their decisions; do not impose your own opinion, but if something does not feel right, now is your time to express it.

For example, if your parents wish to move in with you, but you do not think you have the space, resources, time, or energy to manage it, you have to be honest. Many caregivers of elderly parents end up exhausting their physical and financial resources providing care (Kim Martz).

9. Take The Focus Off Of Them

Sometimes your parents will feel uncomfortable knowing that they are coming to a point where they are now dependent on you; it is hard for a parent to let go of their responsibilities and allow their children to take care of them.

You could shift the focus to how the conversation will help you when they can no longer make decisions, or that it will be easier for the family to take care of things if it is organized now; this way, they feel as if they are helping you rather than becoming a burden.

10. Be A Good Listener

It seems easy enough, but being a good listener goes a long way in a conversation like this. Your parents are leaving their life and death in your hands, and it is so important that they feel heard and that their wishes are understood. Allow them to freely express their desires and their concerns without judgment or interruptions.

11. Offer Them Choices

Your parents may be feeling lost, so guiding them through the conversation and giving them choices may help make it easier for them to come to definite conclusions. Some people like how open-ended questions give them freedom and control over the conversation; however, others prefer to have guidance in the conversation, especially if they are feeling stressed or confused. You know your parents best and which approach would work ideally for them.


During a time like this, when your parents are growing old and you need to take matters into your own hands to help ensure their last days are as enjoyable as possible, your well-being is just as important. We have some tips that will help you manage your emotions and be at ease in the difficult conversation with your elderly parents.

12. Join A Support Group

Everyone’s parents grow old. If you feel alone or distressed trying to set your parents up comfortably for their last days, consider looking for a support group, either in person or online. You can share your feelings and struggles and you can hear stories of others experiencing the same things. You will feel better and you may learn some more helpful tips and tricks for talking to your elderly parents.

13. Educate Yourself

Being knowledgeable often helps us feel more prepared and at ease in unprecedented times. Try finding books, videos, podcasts, or websites that specialize in difficult conversations with your aging parents. You can learn more practical information for the discussion as well as how to deal with the surrounding emotions of the situation.

14. Take Notes

Emotions can run high in conversations like these and your mind will be running with many thoughts and feelings; taking notes throughout the conversation can ensure that you will not forget any important information and that you accurately took down your parents’ wishes. You will have something to look to when you are going through with the decisions.

Learn more on how to honor a loved one's final wishes.

15. Recruit Help

The last tip to make sure that you are okay during this difficult time is to recruit help. We have already laid out some great examples of people who would be valuable and supportive, and we urge you to seek assistance; talking to your elderly parents is tough, so having someone there by your side can make it more bearable and can provide emotional and logistical help when you need it.

Talking To Your Parent's About Their Future Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good age to start discussing end-of-life decisions with my parents?

You and your parents could have this conversation at any time—it is never too early. If you begin to notice your parents are experiencing a cognitive or physical decline, seek medical help, and when the time is right, express your desire for a conversation about their future.

What do I avoid when talking to my aging parents about their futures?

In this article we have given many helpful tips on what to do during a discussion with your elderly parents about end-of-life matters, but what are some things that you should not do? To have a productive and peaceful conversation do not:

  • Pressure or rush them
  • Spring it on them
  • Get frustrated or angry
  • Ignore their wishes
  • Put your needs first
  • Ask everything at once
  • Choose an inappropriate time, place, or help
  • Make promises you can’t keep
  • Wait too long

What is the easiest way to talk to my aging parents about end-of-life decisions?

The best and easiest way to talk to your aging parents is by constantly expressing your love and support. It is a difficult conversation, but for your parents to talk to someone who they know will be there for them until the end and will listen to their wishes is the most important thing. Being kind and understanding will make the conversation enjoyable and will give you the best results.

What do I do if my elderly parents refuse to discuss their futures with me?

Most people do not want to think about the day they are gone, so it is understandable that your parents do not wish to discuss end-of-life matters with you. The important thing is to remain caring and thoughtful. Often parents neglect the conversation out of an innate response to protect their children, even though denial does the opposite in this case; although it feels as if they simply want to ignore you or make things difficult, they are under a false impression of protection and are refusing out of parental love (Jeffrey Hanna).

Give your parents time and space, but you will need to persist; it may seem painful and unfair to your parents, but this is what is best for them and everyone in their lives.

What subjects are important to talk about to your aging parents?

The subjects that need to be discussed can vary from family to family, but generally, there are a few categories that need to be talked about: living situations, elderly wills and trusts, finances, burial or cremation specificities, and funeral arrangements.

How do I deal with my emotions while discussing end-of-life arrangements with my parents?

If you are having a hard time with your parents aging or with their death, there are many ways to commemorate them. We have beautiful pieces of thumbprint memorial jewelry and photo engraved jewelry available here at Jewelry Keepsakes that can honor your parents. There are many options for you to choose from and you can even get your parents’ opinions on their favorites. It is a meaningful way to keep them close and in your hearts.

Making The Hard Conversations A Little Easier

It is never easy to deal with your parents growing old and having to envision a life one day without them; it is even more difficult to discuss this with them. Whether your parents are cooperative and helpful, or they refuse to discuss their future, it is important that you eventually get around to it.

This difficult conversation allows your parents to rest in peace, knowing they are taken care of even in death, and it also allows you to feel content with your decisions and confident that you are still making them happy.

July 7, 2022 by Jeri K. Augustus


Hanna, Jeffrey R. et al. “Challenges and Support Needs of Parents and Children When a Parent is atEnd of Life: A Systematic Review.” Palliative Medicine, vol. 33, no. 8, 27 June 2019, pp. 1017-1044, https://journals-sagepub com.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/doi/full/10.1177/0269216319857622. 

Lee, Hyo Jung and Ng, Jacobbina Jin Wen. “Conversations About Death and Dying, End-of-Life Care Plans and Preferences Between Aging Parents and Adult Children.” Innovation in Aging, vol. 4, no. 1, 16 December 2020, p. 417, https://academic.oup.com/innovateage/article/4/Supplement_1/417/6037789?login=false. 

Luichies, Ina et al. “Caregiving for Ageing Parents: A Literature Review on the Experience of Adult Children.” Nursing Ethics, vol. 28, no. 6, 22 November 2019, pp. 844-863, https://journals-sagepub-com.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/doi/full/10.1177/0969733019881713. 

Martz, Kim and Morse, Janice M.. “The Changing Nature of Guilt in Family Caregivers: Living Through Care Transitions of Parents at the End of Life.” Qualitative Health Research, vol. 27, no. 7, 19 May 2016, pp. 1006-1022, https://journals-sagepub com.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/doi/full/10.1177/1049732316649352.