How to Have the Conversation About Long-Term Care

We read a lot about how important it is to “have the conversation” with our families and loved ones about long-term care planning and options; it’s everywhere in the age of the Sandwich Generation entering retirement in droves. But how easy is it to actually sit down and confront the difficult truths of aging with people who were often our caretakers when we were younger? Where do we get off telling them how to live out their twilight years? Most people in my age group don’t even own a home or have kids, so how could they possibly have the answers about long-term care?

These doubts are pervasive in folks considering the necessity of “the conversation” with their loved ones, and these are the first things that need to get thrown out the window before you start. We all know it’s imperative to have this talk before it’s too late, so I’m here to give you some tips on how to actually prepare and start the conversation.

Before You Begin

How to have the conversation about long-term care planning with loved ones
Assisted living facilities or communities are a popular option for many aging adults.

Be informed about the options. Read up on long-term care and all the avenues available for aging and/or disabled adults. Don’t come to the table without a clue. There are tons of resources, including our own website, that can give you the specifics and the confidence to approach this topic. These are the things you need to know before you start:

  • Costs: will Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance cover the options you’re considering or will they have to be paid for out-of-pocket?
  • Local options: are there care companies in your area? What services do they provide? Are they rated highly by the community?
  • Assets: who will handle the estate in the event of a tragedy? Who will handle the financials? Who are the professionals attached to those assets (estate planner, accountant, lawyer)?

When you go into “the conversation” armed with this information, you’ll show your loved ones how much thought you’ve given to this subject. It will help them understand that you’re not trying to push them into any decisions they’re not willing to make, and they’ll also be more informed when the time comes to decide.

Asking the Big Questions

Once you get all your information laid out, you’re ready to sit down and start talking. Lead with the facts, but don’t overwhelm them with information. The most important thing to remember is that you need to listen to them. You’re not the one who might need care in the near future, they are. The second-most important thing to know is what questions need to get answered. Here are the three biggest things to know:

  • Who is the medical power of attorney?
  • Are they willing to leave their home for care (i.e.: go to an assisted living facility)?
  • Do they want care from family members, hired-in caregivers, or both?

The answers to these questions will help you plan out not only their future but yours, as well.

Listen Up and Listen Well

How to have the conversation about long-term care planning with loved ones
Your loved ones’ wishes should be respected when discussing long-term care.

Like I said in the last section, listening is the most important thing you can do during “the conversation.” Take notes. Don’t try to force anything on them they’re not willing to commit to or live with. If they absolutely refuse to go to a facility, then focus your efforts on finding and helping them afford other options. If they only want one of their adult children to take care of them, respect that. It might be hard to hear or insulting, but this entire conversation is about them.

If the conversation can’t happen because of an initial refusal by your loved ones to participate, don’t take it personally. It’s difficult to be confronted with mortality or future disability, like dementia or loss of mobility. That doesn’t mean you yourself can’t plan in the event an emergency occurs by educating yourself and saving money to cushion the blow.

There’s no reason this has to be a morbid or overly serious conversation. You know your loved ones better than I do, so you know how best to approach a topic as weighty as long-term care planning. If you’re still not sure you can do it on your own, there are plenty of mediation or facilitation services available, including with us. Both our founder, Robert Weink, and our Director of Care, Lynn Cooper, are certified facilitators who can guide you and your loved ones through the process.

Give us a call at: 608-276-6000 or e-mail us at

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