Six Steps to Start the Conversation With Your Parent About Senior Care Options

Nearly 60 percent of adults in a recent survey stated that they were apprehensive about talking to their aging parents about their future needs, including the prospect of considering one or another senior living options. A majority of adult children have a discussion regarding the necessity of some type of senior living option for their aging parents when an emergency situation arises. This most definitely is not the best way to discuss senior living options with a parent.

This article is designed to present you with six steps to start the conversation with your aging parent about senior living or senior care options available that your mother or father may want to consider at some time. The six elements we suggest to start a conversation with your parent about senior care options are:

  • Start with a situation
  • Focus on setting goals not getting answers
  • Be a good partner
  • Don’t wait for an emergency
  • Timing and location are key
  • Listen

Start With a Situation

Professionals in the field of long-term care suggest that starting a conversation to discuss senior care and senior living options with your parents with a situation or even a hypothetical is advisable. This permits a family discussion that doesn’t come off as threatening or demanding. 

Perhaps there has been an actual situation with your parent that provides a segue to a conversation about the future. For example, perhaps your parent experienced an accident and suffered some level of injury that was not overly serious. This can provide an avenue to start a conversation using this situation to build upon. 

The discussion could begin with being thankful that you parent wasn’t more seriously hurt and that no living or lifestyle changes are needed at this time. The question could be gently raised about what your parent would like to do at some future time if he or she sustains a more serious injury.

Your parent is going to be more likely to engage in an exchange that begins in this manner than one in which you sit your parent down and announce you all need to discuss assisted living now. Demanding that a parent talk about future planning is not likely to receive a particularly warm reception from your mother or father. 

Focus on Setting Goals Not Getting Answers

Thus far in this article we have emphasized that the matter of discussing senior care options with your parent does not need to be a high-pressure endeavor. It doesn’t need to be a high-pressure situation if discussions begin regarding this issue in a proactive manner. All bets are off if you wait until an emergency situation to have a discussion about some type of senior care option for your parent. 

Cast the discission of senior care living options with your parents as a series of conversations and not one definitive conversation or “the” conversation. The ongoing discussion of senior care options should be designed and undertaken to take into consideration all options that are available to your older parent in regard to long-term care. 

The ongoing discussion needs to have a primary focus on your parent’s long-term goals and plans. By having a real understanding of your parent’s feelings, needs, and wishes, you and your mother or father will be in a far better position to work together in a positive manner as a team. 

Be a Good Partner

In approaching a conversation with your parent about senior care options, you do not want to come off as some sort of expert or authority figure. You want to be in the role of a partner with your parent to explore what might be available in the way of senior care when the time comes for that type of assistance. You most definitely should not act in a manner that gives off a vibe that you know best. 

As a partner with you parent you share mutual interests. You have a common goal. As mentioned previously, you want to ensure that you parent has an opportunity to clearly set forth what his or her needs, goals, and objectives are when it comes to the idea of some type of senior care option. 

Don’t Wait for an Emergency

Elsewhere in this article, we made reference to being proactive when it comes to having a conversation with your parent about senior care options. You simply must do everything in your power to be as proactive as possible in regard to the matter of senior care options for your parents, even when your own parents do not immediately seem as inclined. 

Thoughtful and contemplative planning is important as part of coming up with a mutually developed plan for your parent associated with senior care options. In addition, being proactive in regard to developing an agreeable and effective plan regarding senior care options also has benefits for you. Chief among these benefits is proactive planning can give you a sense confidence that your parent will be on a good course if the time comes for senior care assistance. In addition, it can significantly enhance your own sense of emotional wellbeing understanding that you have at least some planning in place for your parent, for yourself, and for the rest of your family. 

Timing and Location Are Key

The time and place for discussions about senior care options are vitally important. At the start, it is crucial that you and your parent mutually agree on a time and place to have discussions relating to senior care options.

When it comes to selecting times to have discussions about senior care, in addition to being something mutually agreeable, it must be a time at which neither you or your parent are in a rush. You need to allocate enough time so that your discussion doesn’t feel rushed. 

The location is also vital. You want to select a place where your parent is comfortable. Ideally you are relaxed at that location as well. Keep in mind that confidentiality is likely important to your mother or father. Therefore you want to select to discuss senior care at which confidences can be kept. 


When involved in an ongoing discussion with your aging parent about future plans and senior care options you need to listen to your mother or father. In point of fact, you need to listen more than you speak. 

Deborah Tannen of Georgetown University has underscored the importance of listening. Her thoughts on listening definitely apply in the context of an ongoing discussion of senior care with your older parent. Tannen said:

To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.

Television anchorperson Larry King once remarked:

Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.

This precept by Larry King certainly is applicable to a situation in which you and your parents are involved in an ongoing discussion about your parent and his or her senior living options. 

By paying heed to the six steps to start an ongoing discussion with your parent about senior living options you will establish a friendly and yet firm foundation upon which you can have a serious exchange with your mother or father. By employing these six steps into your own life and situation, you will be able to create a pathway to follow in the future should the time come when serious consideration needs to be made about your parent obtaining some type of senior care.