Seven Essential Questions to Ask Aging Parents


The reality of aging parents naturally brings some possibly sticky questions and conversations well past the time of the birds and the bees:  living arrangements, long-term care, driver licenses, and end-of-life issues (to name a few). No matter how close you are, these talks aren’t always easy—but it’s critical to have them sooner rather than later. It’s not simply about what documents they have and where those reside. It’s about wants, necessary changes over time and real-life logistics that impact everyone’s wellbeing.

Emotionally Charged Questions

Why is it so hard to talk to our aging parent about these questions?  For me, it’s been emotionally challenging to face the fact that they are getting to a new level of older and phase of dependency. I am sure, also, they don’t want to face the fact themselves and, as a result, may be in denial about their own aging process and the changes it demands. Who can blame them? No one wants to picture one’s self-needing help with walking, bathing, driving or eating. But, if crisis hits, and no one has addressed the subject of what your parent wants, it can be enormously stressful on everyone involved.

Seven Essential Questions for Aging Parents

Here are seven topics that are important to discuss with your parents far in advance:

  1. What is your medical care structure?

Does your parent have one doctor who can coordinate care? It’s important to have someone who is the “captain of the ship.” Do your parents keep a list of every medication they take? Ask your parent to put you as someone their providers can discuss medical information otherwise you are legally in the dark. 

  1. Do you have Long Term Care insurance?

Medicare doesn’t pay for long-term care, and an annual nursing home bill can easily reach over $100,000. What is your plan for paying for long-term care, should the need arise? Does your parent have long-term care insurance? Is he or she near the level for Medicaid benefits? Simplify your parent’s finances as much as possible through direct deposit and automatic bill pay and make sure you understand their full picture.

  1. Where would you prefer to live if you were no longer able to stay in your home?

This can be a tough conversation to have, especially with a healthy parent. Find out where your parent(s) would like to live if they had to leave her current home. Are they on the same page? Do your parents want to stay in their current home as long as possible? Or are they considering “downsizing” or moving to a senior living community? Whatever their choices, help them find options. What home care services are available? What options do they have for personal care? Be careful not to make any promises you can’t keep.

  1. How can we keep you at home longer but safely?

What repairs and modifications could make their house, apartment or condominium safer and more convenient? Many older adults are reluctant to discuss their risk or experiences with falls. But did you know that fall protection is actually an important part of planning for the future? Falls are one of the leading causes of incapacity and one risk factor that we can take proactive steps to avoid. From non-slip stair coverings to walk-in shower stalls, find out how to improve their home so they can safely age in place.

  1. What level of treatment would you want if you became seriously ill?

This is a difficult but important question to bring up but knowing their advance directives are critical. It’s beyond if they have the supporting documents, but really understanding their wishes so that you can comfortably execute them.

  1. How do you plan to stay well?

Do your parents have a plan to stay active? Study after study shows that regular physical activity is the most important contributor to healthy aging. No matter what a person’s condition, adding exercise is of benefit. Meaningful social interaction is vital to overall health for people of every age. Recent studies show that older adults who socialize, not only with family members, but also with other groups, have better emotional, intellectual and physical health.

  1. What are your wishes for a funeral or memorial service?

If your parents have specific thoughts regarding the funeral ceremony or service, burial or cremation, ask them to put their wishes in writing but more importantly just talk about them to share this together. This will help to ensure that their desires are carried out and reduces the possibility of disagreements among family members regarding exactly what the parents would want done.

The realities of life marching on are not often comfortable. Yet, this process can be something you walk with your parents together, if you start these conversations early. Is it fun and easy? No. But, be a partner throughout the change, talk about what is happening – and perhaps it may feel a bit less daunting and scary for everyone.

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Hi All, I’m Rebecca! I’ve worked in marketing strategy in the healthcare and wellness industry since college and my MBA for 20+ years (yikes!!). I’m blessed to have combined my geeky professional self with my passions: awareness of and mental health supports for disenfranchised populations and communities. I volunteer in educating the greater community about the real experiences of those in (and out of) recovery from the disease of addiction. I was so honored to give a TED talk in 2019 about removing stigma and shame by simply shifting the language we use, as this is near and dear me. Yet, at the end of the day, my family is everything in my world. I live with my husband Mike and two teenage sons in Lee, along with a crazy cattle dog (Maggie), cat (Leia), fish, 100 snails and soon to be chickens. While a Jersey shore girl at heart, living in MA and NH since the late 90s has fully converted me to a New England sports fan and avid skier, hiker and kayaker. I guess I’m a perfectly imperfect, harmonious, and happy runner, who cares deeply for humans, and Mother Nature. Follow me on Instagram @mommabear5786 to see what life in a house of boys, recovery, loud music, a bit of attitude, and nature looks like!