Elder Care Planning: Difficult Conversations


People almost never change without first feeling understood."

Douglas Stone, author of Difficult Conversations, How to Discuss What Matters Most

There will be many times during your lifetime when you must approach difficult subjects with loved ones. It seems that some of the most difficult conversations for adult children are those conversations with older adult parents, especially when the discussions involve potential changes in lifestyle.

Some common difficult topics to discuss with an older adult parent involve:

  • Downsizing and decisions related to moving or bringing help into the home
  • Driving and transportation alternatives
  • Financial issues and financial capacity
  • Family relationships
  • End of life planning

Ideally you are able to have family conversations with your older adult parent before there is an urgent need for action. However, if this isn't the case, it is important not to rush in and demand that changes be made (i.e. need to move from current home, stop driving, change registration on accounts to joint or take over financial affairs by way of conservatorship or guardianship). Attempting to impose your wishes for change on someone who has been in charge of their own life for as long as they can remember will likely be met with negative reactions such as refusal, defensiveness, denial, and possible irreparable damage to your relationship. On top of that, the situation will remain unchanged and your fears for your parent’s safety and well-being will remain.

Even when the need for change may be urgent, attempt to approach your older adult parent with respect and a desire to give them as much control over their situation as possible. Consider using the CARE conversation model developed by Dan Taylor, author of the Parent Care Solution to help you to have meaningful and productive conversations with your older adult parent

CARE Conversation Model

Challenges - What challenges does your parent currently have or see in their future related to living situation, health/care, and finances?

Alternatives -- What options does your parent want to consider to address these challenges?

Resources -- What resources can you identify to address these challenges (family, financial, community, government, etc.)?

Experience -- What is the experience your parent would like to have as they age?

It may be helpful to hold a family meeting with the help of your financial advisor to discuss these very important issues. An impartial party, like your advisor, can help ask the difficult questions and ensure that all concerns are heard. Your advisor can also help to document the conversations and help to develop a formal action plan to address issues of concern.


Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In 2012-2014 Sandy has been named to the Five Star Wealth Managers list in Detroit Hour magazine. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.

Five Star Award is based on advisor being credentialed as an investment advisory representative (IAR), a FINRA registered representative, a CPA or a licensed attorney, including education and professional designations, actively employed in the industry for five years, favorable regulatory and complaint history review, fulfillment of firm review based on internal firm standards, accepting new clients, one- and five-year client retention rates, non-institutional discretionary and/or non-discretionary client assets administered, number of client households served.

Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning Inc. and not necessarily those of Raymond James C14-012699