Tips For Those “Tough Conversations”

May 10, 2021

Have you ever heard the quote: “Getting old ain’t for sissys.”? Well, it’s true. Usually the aging process brings with it many changes and decisions that are often difficult. As a family Caregiver, you will probably be responsible for bringing these topics up, asking hard questions and having tough conversations with your loved one.

This could be discussions about long term care planning, moving to a Senior Living Community, taking away the car keys, funeral arrangements, or any of the countless other things to ponder on this journey. In our experience, many times the reason why certain subjects aren’t discussed, or decisions made is purely because no one knew how to “bring it up” or where to start. Here are some useful tips on how to get the conversation started:

1. Start early.

The earlier you start these conversations, the easier they will be. When families wait until a crisis occurs, the same decisions need to be made, but now with the baggage of time restraints, stress and emotional turmoil. If topics are brought up ahead of time, it allows for a sense of ease and less pressure for “final decisions” and action. Sharing opinions and information you can reference down the road is invaluable.

2. Choose the right conditions.

Every family member is different and will respond in their own way to questions and confrontation. A benefit of being proactive about discussions is that YOU can dictate timing and setting for these convos. Try to choose a time where guards are down and nothing is at stake. Private, relaxed environments usually yield the best results.

3. Involve other family members.

Even if you are the primary Caregiver, involve other family members in the discussion. This way everyone knows what’s at stake and the burden doesn’t land solely on your shoulders. Together, approach the conversation with a focus on your loved one’s best interests and safety. Share how each of you feel (scared, guilty, sad, etc.). The more open the dialog, the better.

4. Don’t give ultimatums.

No one wants to be backed into a corner. Open ended questions are sometimes too overwhelming for Seniors. Try to have 2-3 options available for your loved one to choose from that are all appropriate in your opinion. That way, they are still able to make their own decision, but you know it will be one you are satisfied with. For example, if you are concerned for their care and safety living alone at home, options could be: 1. Get an in-home caregiver service to come by the house daily to help with medications, errands and care 2. Move into a Senior living community where they can have access to the amenities and care they need.

5. Do your research.

It’s important that you have information and facts to back up your suggestions and concerns. Be prepared to address concerns such as costs, logistics, etc. The more informed you are, the more progress you can make in the discussion.

6. Use empathetic language.

These kinds of conversations are triggering to most Seniors. It signals “getting old”, “end of life” and many emotions will be stirred up. Use compassion and empathy as you talk openly about their concerns and validate how they feel. Even though you may have an agenda, make sure to slow down and listen. Everyone just wants to be “heard”.

7. Get help.

Seek out professional guidance to get the information you need before AND during these conversations. Sunways is a free service to help you come up with solutions and connect you with vetted resources at every stage of this journey. To set up a discovery call to see how we can help, go to

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