Estate Planning

How To Discuss End-of-Life Care With Parents (Simple Guide)

Joel Lim

November 14, 2023

|

son talking to elder parents seriously

The intelligent digital vault for families

Trustworthy protects and optimizes important family information so you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind

Having an end-of-life planning discussion with aging parents is not easy. It’s tough to talk about what treatment options are available and what type of goals and preparations they desire. You might be wondering how to start the conversation.

This guide is here to help. We’ll provide conservation tips and guidelines on how to make the discussion go smoothly so you can help your aging parents prepare for the future.

Key Takeaways

  • End-of-life discussions are sensitive topics that take time and preparation to approach. Setting the stage for the conversation can help create a better environment.


  • A meaningful end-of-life discussion requires you to be careful of your wording and approach. It’s essential to listen and be understanding of your parents' views.


  • To help your parents with their end-of-life goals, you must know all their available options.

How to Discuss End-of-Life Care with Parents

how to discuss end-of-life care with parents

Discussing end-of-life care with your parents can be hard to approach, but starting the conversation sooner rather than later will help you and your parents plan. Here are some guidelines to follow to help prepare you leading up to the initial discussion.

Conduct Research on End-of-Life Healthcare Options

It’s important to know what options are available to your parents once they reach the stage of end-of-life care. To discuss their choices, you need to research what resources are available.

Reach out to elderly care facilities, such as local hospices and retirement homes. Call them and ask questions regarding their services and what they offer. 


Also, research at-home hospice alternatives in case your parents wish to have care at home. You can discuss this with them to ensure it’s the right plan.

After researching care and treatment options, you can think about how best to talk things over with your elderly parents.

Decide How to Bring it Up

Pitching the idea of the discussion is your first step. A good pitch should start with a good introduction. 

One clever way of leading into the discussion is by tying it to an experience you recently had. For example, you could say your best friend had to help their parents create a will or mention they’re helping their aging parents move to a care facility.

You can also ask questions to prime their mindset into thinking about end-of-life care. Consider asking them about what it was like for them when their parents died. Reflecting on their experiences can get them thinking about their wishes and plans for end-of-life treatment and care.

Find the Right Time for the Discussion

Timing is everything, especially regarding heavier topics such as end-of-life care treatment. Determining the right moment can be challenging.

Pick a time when your parents aren’t overwhelmed or emotionally down. Trying to discuss their end-of-life care when they aren’t in the right mindset can be off-putting and make them feel more anxious and upset.

One suggestion is to bring it up after an event that puts them in a positive mindset. The holidays, a fun family dinner, or a large gathering could be potential lead-ins. It's important to do it after the occasion, as bringing it up during is not considered appropriate.

Another idea is to mention things after a doctor's appointment. While doctor's appointments aren’t often pleasant experiences, they can be an opportunity to jump in and discuss end-of-life care, as they’re in the mindset of their health gradually declining.

The key is to be strategic in your communication with your parents. Try to start the conversation during a time when they’re most relaxed and open for discussion.

Begin Your Conversation

Most people agree end-of-life discussions are important, but they’re too timid to bring them up. From a parent's point of view, it can be unpleasant to think about dying. They also fear it might make their kids and other loved ones uncomfortable.

Putting off the discussion only makes matters worse, though. 

Owner of end-of-life consulting company Good to Go, Amy Pickard, advises:

“It's okay to acknowledge that the topic is uncomfortable, but you could say that you would be even more uncomfortable making arrangements for them without their input.”

It’s more challenging to help your parents achieve their desired goals before their passing if you don’t get their input. Discussing end-of-life care earlier is better, as it can allow time to make preparations rather than making hasty decisions.

A significant benefit to discussing it sooner rather than later is the conversation can be broken up over time. Simply mentioning it here and there is a less stressful approach for you and your parents.

Try to talk about it with them in small spurts. Take note of what they say, and gradually piece together their ideal conditions for end-of-life care.

Conversation Tips for End-of-Life Care Discussions

conversation tips for end-of-life care discussions

Planning the conversation strategically is one thing, but having it is the hardest part. If you struggle to begin the talk with your parents, follow these tips to help you be more confident in approaching them.

Proceed Slowly

Pacing is essential, especially if death is the topic. It’s better to spread talking about end-of-life decisions over days or weeks rather than jumping straight into things all at once.

You shouldn’t count on having all your questions answered during the first discussion with your parents. Instead, anticipate having multiple talks throughout weeks or even months.

A good way to start from the beginning is to talk to your parents about their bucket list. Ask them how they envision themselves as they age and where they plan to be. 

Continue asking questions if they’re open to the conversation. Do they believe in prolonging life through artificial means vs naturally dying? Do they see themselves wanting to pass away at home or in a facility? Lastly, what funeral services do they prefer (burial vs. cremation, etc)?

Remember, getting all these answers may take some time. Document their preferences as you make progress.

Listen Very Carefully

Having an end-of-life discussion with your parents deserves your undivided attention. Not only are they taking the time to talk things over, but they’re also making themselves emotionally vulnerable to you. It’s essential to listen to them as best as you can while they talk.

Listening carefully is not only respectful but shows that you care. Always try to maintain eye contact with them as they talk. Try to come up with good follow-up questions to keep them engaged along with you.

An ideal place to talk to your parents about their end-of-life goals should be somewhere calming and not distracting. Find a location where you know you’ll be able to hear them well so you absorb what they have to say.

Be Understanding

Talking about end-of-life care can be hard for a lot of people. Some may get emotional, which could come out in different forms, such as anger or sadness. 

However they choose to process their emotions, you need to be understanding. They’re acting in a particular way because it’s how they deal with it.

If bringing it up makes them sad, try to understand where the sadness comes from and comfort them. If it’s anger, try to understand why they’re angry, and give them time and space to vent and let out.

They may also have different opinions on dying naturally versus prolonging life. Whatever their stance is on end-of-life care, try to understand and respect their beliefs.

Be Honest and Direct

Sometimes, there will be cases where you need to be honest and direct with your parents when it comes to end-of-life care.

It’s important to honor their space if they do not want to discuss it. However, talking about it should not be constantly pushed back to the point of being too late.

If they constantly refuse to discuss it with you, try being direct as to why you are bringing it up with them. Be honest and tell them you are doing it because you want to help them, and putting it off constantly will do more harm than good.

Don’t be afraid to be honest with them about how it could affect you, too. Without adequate planning, it could be strenuous on you mentally and financially by not bringing it to their attention.

Involve Other Family Members

Chances are, you aren’t the only one who should consider your parents’ end-of-life care. If you have siblings, involve them in helping your parents determine what they desire in the end.

Getting your siblings involved can help motivate them to be more open about their end-of-life care. Having a bigger support group may make them feel more comfortable. It can also be less stressful, taking some weight off your shoulders.

If you don’t have any siblings, reach out to other family members who are close to them. They may feel more comfortable and open to discussing their end-of-life goals with another family member. If that's the case, don't be offended; just be happy they’re being open.

Show Love and Support

Ultimately, the most important thing is to show your love and support, even during the challenging parts of the end-of-life discussions.

Sometimes, you and your parents will disagree on some beliefs. You might feel overwhelmed because what they desire may not be feasible, especially if it involves you having to care for them.

During these times of tension, be sure to keep track of the intended purpose, which is to help them by loving and supporting them as best as you can.

End-of-Life Care Discussion Topics

end-of-life care discussion topics

It’s important to have discussion topics ready before you start talking with them about end-of-life preparations. Here are some common things to bring up:

Long-Term Care Arrangements

Determining your parents’ long-term care arrangements should be a priority, as preparations take time.

Ask them what forms of long-term treatment they would prefer. Do they mind living in a nursing home or assisted living? Do they have a preference toward a particular option or facility compared to another?

Have an honest and open discussion about the different types and levels of care available to them.

Pain Management

Understanding your parents’ views on pain management should be considered depending on their beliefs.

Do they have any strict beliefs when it comes to things such as drug usage to manage pain? If they’re not okay with having to use drugs as a method to prolong life, it’s important to consider that when finding the right facility for them.

Family Involvement

Determining how much your parents want the family to be involved is important. Family involvement might mean making extra preparations to honor that request.

For example, if they hope you and your siblings will care for them, you need to decide if it’s feasible, as it demands resources from you.

If you decide you can’t offer in-home services, you need to find another solution for them that will work in their favor.

End-of-Life Wishes

If your parents have a bucket list of experiences they wish to accomplish, encourage them to pursue those things while they still can.

You can choose to be as little or as involved as possible in helping them achieve their wishes. However, helping them do so could greatly improve your relationship and help create good final memories.

Assistance in Finalizing the Will

They may or may not ask you to assist them in arranging their will. If they approach you, consider helping them in the creation of it.

Your involvement can help them feel more at ease when they pass on. Write the will according to how they want it. Try to avoid causing conflict when it comes down to who gets what.

Other Practical Considerations

In some cases, another determining factor comes into play and should be discussed regarding what happens after your parents’ passing.

For example, if they have pets, there needs to be a plan for what happens to them afterward. Adopting them as your pets means making preparations for their arrival.

You may also need to discuss how to handle their bills. Do they plan on having you help cover the bills or someone else if needed? These are just some things to consider.

Find and Keep Documents Safe

As your parents age, they need help keeping track of their important documents to prevent them from being lost.

If you need a place to store and secure their documents, look no further. Here at Trustworthy, we specialize in organization and security so you can rest well knowing your family documents are safe.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you tell a parent they are going to hospice?

If you have to send a loved one to hospice, it’s important to keep emphasizing you will continue to give love and support to them. Explain to them how they will receive better care, and you can focus more on quality time with them.

How do you start an end-of-life conversation?

There are many ways to start an end-of-life discussion. One way could be to ask them a simple question: “What's on your bucket list?” It can be a gateway to eventually leading to other topics such as files and end-of-life goals.

Estate Planning

How To Discuss End-of-Life Care With Parents (Simple Guide)

Joel Lim

November 14, 2023

|

son talking to elder parents seriously

Having an end-of-life planning discussion with aging parents is not easy. It’s tough to talk about what treatment options are available and what type of goals and preparations they desire. You might be wondering how to start the conversation.

This guide is here to help. We’ll provide conservation tips and guidelines on how to make the discussion go smoothly so you can help your aging parents prepare for the future.

Key Takeaways

  • End-of-life discussions are sensitive topics that take time and preparation to approach. Setting the stage for the conversation can help create a better environment.


  • A meaningful end-of-life discussion requires you to be careful of your wording and approach. It’s essential to listen and be understanding of your parents' views.


  • To help your parents with their end-of-life goals, you must know all their available options.

How to Discuss End-of-Life Care with Parents

how to discuss end-of-life care with parents

Discussing end-of-life care with your parents can be hard to approach, but starting the conversation sooner rather than later will help you and your parents plan. Here are some guidelines to follow to help prepare you leading up to the initial discussion.

Conduct Research on End-of-Life Healthcare Options

It’s important to know what options are available to your parents once they reach the stage of end-of-life care. To discuss their choices, you need to research what resources are available.

Reach out to elderly care facilities, such as local hospices and retirement homes. Call them and ask questions regarding their services and what they offer. 


Also, research at-home hospice alternatives in case your parents wish to have care at home. You can discuss this with them to ensure it’s the right plan.

After researching care and treatment options, you can think about how best to talk things over with your elderly parents.

Decide How to Bring it Up

Pitching the idea of the discussion is your first step. A good pitch should start with a good introduction. 

One clever way of leading into the discussion is by tying it to an experience you recently had. For example, you could say your best friend had to help their parents create a will or mention they’re helping their aging parents move to a care facility.

You can also ask questions to prime their mindset into thinking about end-of-life care. Consider asking them about what it was like for them when their parents died. Reflecting on their experiences can get them thinking about their wishes and plans for end-of-life treatment and care.

Find the Right Time for the Discussion

Timing is everything, especially regarding heavier topics such as end-of-life care treatment. Determining the right moment can be challenging.

Pick a time when your parents aren’t overwhelmed or emotionally down. Trying to discuss their end-of-life care when they aren’t in the right mindset can be off-putting and make them feel more anxious and upset.

One suggestion is to bring it up after an event that puts them in a positive mindset. The holidays, a fun family dinner, or a large gathering could be potential lead-ins. It's important to do it after the occasion, as bringing it up during is not considered appropriate.

Another idea is to mention things after a doctor's appointment. While doctor's appointments aren’t often pleasant experiences, they can be an opportunity to jump in and discuss end-of-life care, as they’re in the mindset of their health gradually declining.

The key is to be strategic in your communication with your parents. Try to start the conversation during a time when they’re most relaxed and open for discussion.

Begin Your Conversation

Most people agree end-of-life discussions are important, but they’re too timid to bring them up. From a parent's point of view, it can be unpleasant to think about dying. They also fear it might make their kids and other loved ones uncomfortable.

Putting off the discussion only makes matters worse, though. 

Owner of end-of-life consulting company Good to Go, Amy Pickard, advises:

“It's okay to acknowledge that the topic is uncomfortable, but you could say that you would be even more uncomfortable making arrangements for them without their input.”

It’s more challenging to help your parents achieve their desired goals before their passing if you don’t get their input. Discussing end-of-life care earlier is better, as it can allow time to make preparations rather than making hasty decisions.

A significant benefit to discussing it sooner rather than later is the conversation can be broken up over time. Simply mentioning it here and there is a less stressful approach for you and your parents.

Try to talk about it with them in small spurts. Take note of what they say, and gradually piece together their ideal conditions for end-of-life care.

Conversation Tips for End-of-Life Care Discussions

conversation tips for end-of-life care discussions

Planning the conversation strategically is one thing, but having it is the hardest part. If you struggle to begin the talk with your parents, follow these tips to help you be more confident in approaching them.

Proceed Slowly

Pacing is essential, especially if death is the topic. It’s better to spread talking about end-of-life decisions over days or weeks rather than jumping straight into things all at once.

You shouldn’t count on having all your questions answered during the first discussion with your parents. Instead, anticipate having multiple talks throughout weeks or even months.

A good way to start from the beginning is to talk to your parents about their bucket list. Ask them how they envision themselves as they age and where they plan to be. 

Continue asking questions if they’re open to the conversation. Do they believe in prolonging life through artificial means vs naturally dying? Do they see themselves wanting to pass away at home or in a facility? Lastly, what funeral services do they prefer (burial vs. cremation, etc)?

Remember, getting all these answers may take some time. Document their preferences as you make progress.

Listen Very Carefully

Having an end-of-life discussion with your parents deserves your undivided attention. Not only are they taking the time to talk things over, but they’re also making themselves emotionally vulnerable to you. It’s essential to listen to them as best as you can while they talk.

Listening carefully is not only respectful but shows that you care. Always try to maintain eye contact with them as they talk. Try to come up with good follow-up questions to keep them engaged along with you.

An ideal place to talk to your parents about their end-of-life goals should be somewhere calming and not distracting. Find a location where you know you’ll be able to hear them well so you absorb what they have to say.

Be Understanding

Talking about end-of-life care can be hard for a lot of people. Some may get emotional, which could come out in different forms, such as anger or sadness. 

However they choose to process their emotions, you need to be understanding. They’re acting in a particular way because it’s how they deal with it.

If bringing it up makes them sad, try to understand where the sadness comes from and comfort them. If it’s anger, try to understand why they’re angry, and give them time and space to vent and let out.

They may also have different opinions on dying naturally versus prolonging life. Whatever their stance is on end-of-life care, try to understand and respect their beliefs.

Be Honest and Direct

Sometimes, there will be cases where you need to be honest and direct with your parents when it comes to end-of-life care.

It’s important to honor their space if they do not want to discuss it. However, talking about it should not be constantly pushed back to the point of being too late.

If they constantly refuse to discuss it with you, try being direct as to why you are bringing it up with them. Be honest and tell them you are doing it because you want to help them, and putting it off constantly will do more harm than good.

Don’t be afraid to be honest with them about how it could affect you, too. Without adequate planning, it could be strenuous on you mentally and financially by not bringing it to their attention.

Involve Other Family Members

Chances are, you aren’t the only one who should consider your parents’ end-of-life care. If you have siblings, involve them in helping your parents determine what they desire in the end.

Getting your siblings involved can help motivate them to be more open about their end-of-life care. Having a bigger support group may make them feel more comfortable. It can also be less stressful, taking some weight off your shoulders.

If you don’t have any siblings, reach out to other family members who are close to them. They may feel more comfortable and open to discussing their end-of-life goals with another family member. If that's the case, don't be offended; just be happy they’re being open.

Show Love and Support

Ultimately, the most important thing is to show your love and support, even during the challenging parts of the end-of-life discussions.

Sometimes, you and your parents will disagree on some beliefs. You might feel overwhelmed because what they desire may not be feasible, especially if it involves you having to care for them.

During these times of tension, be sure to keep track of the intended purpose, which is to help them by loving and supporting them as best as you can.

End-of-Life Care Discussion Topics

end-of-life care discussion topics

It’s important to have discussion topics ready before you start talking with them about end-of-life preparations. Here are some common things to bring up:

Long-Term Care Arrangements

Determining your parents’ long-term care arrangements should be a priority, as preparations take time.

Ask them what forms of long-term treatment they would prefer. Do they mind living in a nursing home or assisted living? Do they have a preference toward a particular option or facility compared to another?

Have an honest and open discussion about the different types and levels of care available to them.

Pain Management

Understanding your parents’ views on pain management should be considered depending on their beliefs.

Do they have any strict beliefs when it comes to things such as drug usage to manage pain? If they’re not okay with having to use drugs as a method to prolong life, it’s important to consider that when finding the right facility for them.

Family Involvement

Determining how much your parents want the family to be involved is important. Family involvement might mean making extra preparations to honor that request.

For example, if they hope you and your siblings will care for them, you need to decide if it’s feasible, as it demands resources from you.

If you decide you can’t offer in-home services, you need to find another solution for them that will work in their favor.

End-of-Life Wishes

If your parents have a bucket list of experiences they wish to accomplish, encourage them to pursue those things while they still can.

You can choose to be as little or as involved as possible in helping them achieve their wishes. However, helping them do so could greatly improve your relationship and help create good final memories.

Assistance in Finalizing the Will

They may or may not ask you to assist them in arranging their will. If they approach you, consider helping them in the creation of it.

Your involvement can help them feel more at ease when they pass on. Write the will according to how they want it. Try to avoid causing conflict when it comes down to who gets what.

Other Practical Considerations

In some cases, another determining factor comes into play and should be discussed regarding what happens after your parents’ passing.

For example, if they have pets, there needs to be a plan for what happens to them afterward. Adopting them as your pets means making preparations for their arrival.

You may also need to discuss how to handle their bills. Do they plan on having you help cover the bills or someone else if needed? These are just some things to consider.

Find and Keep Documents Safe

As your parents age, they need help keeping track of their important documents to prevent them from being lost.

If you need a place to store and secure their documents, look no further. Here at Trustworthy, we specialize in organization and security so you can rest well knowing your family documents are safe.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you tell a parent they are going to hospice?

If you have to send a loved one to hospice, it’s important to keep emphasizing you will continue to give love and support to them. Explain to them how they will receive better care, and you can focus more on quality time with them.

How do you start an end-of-life conversation?

There are many ways to start an end-of-life discussion. One way could be to ask them a simple question: “What's on your bucket list?” It can be a gateway to eventually leading to other topics such as files and end-of-life goals.

Estate Planning

How To Discuss End-of-Life Care With Parents (Simple Guide)

Joel Lim

November 14, 2023

|

son talking to elder parents seriously

The intelligent digital vault for families

Trustworthy protects and optimizes important family information so you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind

Having an end-of-life planning discussion with aging parents is not easy. It’s tough to talk about what treatment options are available and what type of goals and preparations they desire. You might be wondering how to start the conversation.

This guide is here to help. We’ll provide conservation tips and guidelines on how to make the discussion go smoothly so you can help your aging parents prepare for the future.

Key Takeaways

  • End-of-life discussions are sensitive topics that take time and preparation to approach. Setting the stage for the conversation can help create a better environment.


  • A meaningful end-of-life discussion requires you to be careful of your wording and approach. It’s essential to listen and be understanding of your parents' views.


  • To help your parents with their end-of-life goals, you must know all their available options.

How to Discuss End-of-Life Care with Parents

how to discuss end-of-life care with parents

Discussing end-of-life care with your parents can be hard to approach, but starting the conversation sooner rather than later will help you and your parents plan. Here are some guidelines to follow to help prepare you leading up to the initial discussion.

Conduct Research on End-of-Life Healthcare Options

It’s important to know what options are available to your parents once they reach the stage of end-of-life care. To discuss their choices, you need to research what resources are available.

Reach out to elderly care facilities, such as local hospices and retirement homes. Call them and ask questions regarding their services and what they offer. 


Also, research at-home hospice alternatives in case your parents wish to have care at home. You can discuss this with them to ensure it’s the right plan.

After researching care and treatment options, you can think about how best to talk things over with your elderly parents.

Decide How to Bring it Up

Pitching the idea of the discussion is your first step. A good pitch should start with a good introduction. 

One clever way of leading into the discussion is by tying it to an experience you recently had. For example, you could say your best friend had to help their parents create a will or mention they’re helping their aging parents move to a care facility.

You can also ask questions to prime their mindset into thinking about end-of-life care. Consider asking them about what it was like for them when their parents died. Reflecting on their experiences can get them thinking about their wishes and plans for end-of-life treatment and care.

Find the Right Time for the Discussion

Timing is everything, especially regarding heavier topics such as end-of-life care treatment. Determining the right moment can be challenging.

Pick a time when your parents aren’t overwhelmed or emotionally down. Trying to discuss their end-of-life care when they aren’t in the right mindset can be off-putting and make them feel more anxious and upset.

One suggestion is to bring it up after an event that puts them in a positive mindset. The holidays, a fun family dinner, or a large gathering could be potential lead-ins. It's important to do it after the occasion, as bringing it up during is not considered appropriate.

Another idea is to mention things after a doctor's appointment. While doctor's appointments aren’t often pleasant experiences, they can be an opportunity to jump in and discuss end-of-life care, as they’re in the mindset of their health gradually declining.

The key is to be strategic in your communication with your parents. Try to start the conversation during a time when they’re most relaxed and open for discussion.

Begin Your Conversation

Most people agree end-of-life discussions are important, but they’re too timid to bring them up. From a parent's point of view, it can be unpleasant to think about dying. They also fear it might make their kids and other loved ones uncomfortable.

Putting off the discussion only makes matters worse, though. 

Owner of end-of-life consulting company Good to Go, Amy Pickard, advises:

“It's okay to acknowledge that the topic is uncomfortable, but you could say that you would be even more uncomfortable making arrangements for them without their input.”

It’s more challenging to help your parents achieve their desired goals before their passing if you don’t get their input. Discussing end-of-life care earlier is better, as it can allow time to make preparations rather than making hasty decisions.

A significant benefit to discussing it sooner rather than later is the conversation can be broken up over time. Simply mentioning it here and there is a less stressful approach for you and your parents.

Try to talk about it with them in small spurts. Take note of what they say, and gradually piece together their ideal conditions for end-of-life care.

Conversation Tips for End-of-Life Care Discussions

conversation tips for end-of-life care discussions

Planning the conversation strategically is one thing, but having it is the hardest part. If you struggle to begin the talk with your parents, follow these tips to help you be more confident in approaching them.

Proceed Slowly

Pacing is essential, especially if death is the topic. It’s better to spread talking about end-of-life decisions over days or weeks rather than jumping straight into things all at once.

You shouldn’t count on having all your questions answered during the first discussion with your parents. Instead, anticipate having multiple talks throughout weeks or even months.

A good way to start from the beginning is to talk to your parents about their bucket list. Ask them how they envision themselves as they age and where they plan to be. 

Continue asking questions if they’re open to the conversation. Do they believe in prolonging life through artificial means vs naturally dying? Do they see themselves wanting to pass away at home or in a facility? Lastly, what funeral services do they prefer (burial vs. cremation, etc)?

Remember, getting all these answers may take some time. Document their preferences as you make progress.

Listen Very Carefully

Having an end-of-life discussion with your parents deserves your undivided attention. Not only are they taking the time to talk things over, but they’re also making themselves emotionally vulnerable to you. It’s essential to listen to them as best as you can while they talk.

Listening carefully is not only respectful but shows that you care. Always try to maintain eye contact with them as they talk. Try to come up with good follow-up questions to keep them engaged along with you.

An ideal place to talk to your parents about their end-of-life goals should be somewhere calming and not distracting. Find a location where you know you’ll be able to hear them well so you absorb what they have to say.

Be Understanding

Talking about end-of-life care can be hard for a lot of people. Some may get emotional, which could come out in different forms, such as anger or sadness. 

However they choose to process their emotions, you need to be understanding. They’re acting in a particular way because it’s how they deal with it.

If bringing it up makes them sad, try to understand where the sadness comes from and comfort them. If it’s anger, try to understand why they’re angry, and give them time and space to vent and let out.

They may also have different opinions on dying naturally versus prolonging life. Whatever their stance is on end-of-life care, try to understand and respect their beliefs.

Be Honest and Direct

Sometimes, there will be cases where you need to be honest and direct with your parents when it comes to end-of-life care.

It’s important to honor their space if they do not want to discuss it. However, talking about it should not be constantly pushed back to the point of being too late.

If they constantly refuse to discuss it with you, try being direct as to why you are bringing it up with them. Be honest and tell them you are doing it because you want to help them, and putting it off constantly will do more harm than good.

Don’t be afraid to be honest with them about how it could affect you, too. Without adequate planning, it could be strenuous on you mentally and financially by not bringing it to their attention.

Involve Other Family Members

Chances are, you aren’t the only one who should consider your parents’ end-of-life care. If you have siblings, involve them in helping your parents determine what they desire in the end.

Getting your siblings involved can help motivate them to be more open about their end-of-life care. Having a bigger support group may make them feel more comfortable. It can also be less stressful, taking some weight off your shoulders.

If you don’t have any siblings, reach out to other family members who are close to them. They may feel more comfortable and open to discussing their end-of-life goals with another family member. If that's the case, don't be offended; just be happy they’re being open.

Show Love and Support

Ultimately, the most important thing is to show your love and support, even during the challenging parts of the end-of-life discussions.

Sometimes, you and your parents will disagree on some beliefs. You might feel overwhelmed because what they desire may not be feasible, especially if it involves you having to care for them.

During these times of tension, be sure to keep track of the intended purpose, which is to help them by loving and supporting them as best as you can.

End-of-Life Care Discussion Topics

end-of-life care discussion topics

It’s important to have discussion topics ready before you start talking with them about end-of-life preparations. Here are some common things to bring up:

Long-Term Care Arrangements

Determining your parents’ long-term care arrangements should be a priority, as preparations take time.

Ask them what forms of long-term treatment they would prefer. Do they mind living in a nursing home or assisted living? Do they have a preference toward a particular option or facility compared to another?

Have an honest and open discussion about the different types and levels of care available to them.

Pain Management

Understanding your parents’ views on pain management should be considered depending on their beliefs.

Do they have any strict beliefs when it comes to things such as drug usage to manage pain? If they’re not okay with having to use drugs as a method to prolong life, it’s important to consider that when finding the right facility for them.

Family Involvement

Determining how much your parents want the family to be involved is important. Family involvement might mean making extra preparations to honor that request.

For example, if they hope you and your siblings will care for them, you need to decide if it’s feasible, as it demands resources from you.

If you decide you can’t offer in-home services, you need to find another solution for them that will work in their favor.

End-of-Life Wishes

If your parents have a bucket list of experiences they wish to accomplish, encourage them to pursue those things while they still can.

You can choose to be as little or as involved as possible in helping them achieve their wishes. However, helping them do so could greatly improve your relationship and help create good final memories.

Assistance in Finalizing the Will

They may or may not ask you to assist them in arranging their will. If they approach you, consider helping them in the creation of it.

Your involvement can help them feel more at ease when they pass on. Write the will according to how they want it. Try to avoid causing conflict when it comes down to who gets what.

Other Practical Considerations

In some cases, another determining factor comes into play and should be discussed regarding what happens after your parents’ passing.

For example, if they have pets, there needs to be a plan for what happens to them afterward. Adopting them as your pets means making preparations for their arrival.

You may also need to discuss how to handle their bills. Do they plan on having you help cover the bills or someone else if needed? These are just some things to consider.

Find and Keep Documents Safe

As your parents age, they need help keeping track of their important documents to prevent them from being lost.

If you need a place to store and secure their documents, look no further. Here at Trustworthy, we specialize in organization and security so you can rest well knowing your family documents are safe.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you tell a parent they are going to hospice?

If you have to send a loved one to hospice, it’s important to keep emphasizing you will continue to give love and support to them. Explain to them how they will receive better care, and you can focus more on quality time with them.

How do you start an end-of-life conversation?

There are many ways to start an end-of-life discussion. One way could be to ask them a simple question: “What's on your bucket list?” It can be a gateway to eventually leading to other topics such as files and end-of-life goals.

Estate Planning

How To Discuss End-of-Life Care With Parents (Simple Guide)

Joel Lim

November 14, 2023

|

son talking to elder parents seriously

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Having an end-of-life planning discussion with aging parents is not easy. It’s tough to talk about what treatment options are available and what type of goals and preparations they desire. You might be wondering how to start the conversation.

This guide is here to help. We’ll provide conservation tips and guidelines on how to make the discussion go smoothly so you can help your aging parents prepare for the future.

Key Takeaways

  • End-of-life discussions are sensitive topics that take time and preparation to approach. Setting the stage for the conversation can help create a better environment.


  • A meaningful end-of-life discussion requires you to be careful of your wording and approach. It’s essential to listen and be understanding of your parents' views.


  • To help your parents with their end-of-life goals, you must know all their available options.

How to Discuss End-of-Life Care with Parents

how to discuss end-of-life care with parents

Discussing end-of-life care with your parents can be hard to approach, but starting the conversation sooner rather than later will help you and your parents plan. Here are some guidelines to follow to help prepare you leading up to the initial discussion.

Conduct Research on End-of-Life Healthcare Options

It’s important to know what options are available to your parents once they reach the stage of end-of-life care. To discuss their choices, you need to research what resources are available.

Reach out to elderly care facilities, such as local hospices and retirement homes. Call them and ask questions regarding their services and what they offer. 


Also, research at-home hospice alternatives in case your parents wish to have care at home. You can discuss this with them to ensure it’s the right plan.

After researching care and treatment options, you can think about how best to talk things over with your elderly parents.

Decide How to Bring it Up

Pitching the idea of the discussion is your first step. A good pitch should start with a good introduction. 

One clever way of leading into the discussion is by tying it to an experience you recently had. For example, you could say your best friend had to help their parents create a will or mention they’re helping their aging parents move to a care facility.

You can also ask questions to prime their mindset into thinking about end-of-life care. Consider asking them about what it was like for them when their parents died. Reflecting on their experiences can get them thinking about their wishes and plans for end-of-life treatment and care.

Find the Right Time for the Discussion

Timing is everything, especially regarding heavier topics such as end-of-life care treatment. Determining the right moment can be challenging.

Pick a time when your parents aren’t overwhelmed or emotionally down. Trying to discuss their end-of-life care when they aren’t in the right mindset can be off-putting and make them feel more anxious and upset.

One suggestion is to bring it up after an event that puts them in a positive mindset. The holidays, a fun family dinner, or a large gathering could be potential lead-ins. It's important to do it after the occasion, as bringing it up during is not considered appropriate.

Another idea is to mention things after a doctor's appointment. While doctor's appointments aren’t often pleasant experiences, they can be an opportunity to jump in and discuss end-of-life care, as they’re in the mindset of their health gradually declining.

The key is to be strategic in your communication with your parents. Try to start the conversation during a time when they’re most relaxed and open for discussion.

Begin Your Conversation

Most people agree end-of-life discussions are important, but they’re too timid to bring them up. From a parent's point of view, it can be unpleasant to think about dying. They also fear it might make their kids and other loved ones uncomfortable.

Putting off the discussion only makes matters worse, though. 

Owner of end-of-life consulting company Good to Go, Amy Pickard, advises:

“It's okay to acknowledge that the topic is uncomfortable, but you could say that you would be even more uncomfortable making arrangements for them without their input.”

It’s more challenging to help your parents achieve their desired goals before their passing if you don’t get their input. Discussing end-of-life care earlier is better, as it can allow time to make preparations rather than making hasty decisions.

A significant benefit to discussing it sooner rather than later is the conversation can be broken up over time. Simply mentioning it here and there is a less stressful approach for you and your parents.

Try to talk about it with them in small spurts. Take note of what they say, and gradually piece together their ideal conditions for end-of-life care.

Conversation Tips for End-of-Life Care Discussions

conversation tips for end-of-life care discussions

Planning the conversation strategically is one thing, but having it is the hardest part. If you struggle to begin the talk with your parents, follow these tips to help you be more confident in approaching them.

Proceed Slowly

Pacing is essential, especially if death is the topic. It’s better to spread talking about end-of-life decisions over days or weeks rather than jumping straight into things all at once.

You shouldn’t count on having all your questions answered during the first discussion with your parents. Instead, anticipate having multiple talks throughout weeks or even months.

A good way to start from the beginning is to talk to your parents about their bucket list. Ask them how they envision themselves as they age and where they plan to be. 

Continue asking questions if they’re open to the conversation. Do they believe in prolonging life through artificial means vs naturally dying? Do they see themselves wanting to pass away at home or in a facility? Lastly, what funeral services do they prefer (burial vs. cremation, etc)?

Remember, getting all these answers may take some time. Document their preferences as you make progress.

Listen Very Carefully

Having an end-of-life discussion with your parents deserves your undivided attention. Not only are they taking the time to talk things over, but they’re also making themselves emotionally vulnerable to you. It’s essential to listen to them as best as you can while they talk.

Listening carefully is not only respectful but shows that you care. Always try to maintain eye contact with them as they talk. Try to come up with good follow-up questions to keep them engaged along with you.

An ideal place to talk to your parents about their end-of-life goals should be somewhere calming and not distracting. Find a location where you know you’ll be able to hear them well so you absorb what they have to say.

Be Understanding

Talking about end-of-life care can be hard for a lot of people. Some may get emotional, which could come out in different forms, such as anger or sadness. 

However they choose to process their emotions, you need to be understanding. They’re acting in a particular way because it’s how they deal with it.

If bringing it up makes them sad, try to understand where the sadness comes from and comfort them. If it’s anger, try to understand why they’re angry, and give them time and space to vent and let out.

They may also have different opinions on dying naturally versus prolonging life. Whatever their stance is on end-of-life care, try to understand and respect their beliefs.

Be Honest and Direct

Sometimes, there will be cases where you need to be honest and direct with your parents when it comes to end-of-life care.

It’s important to honor their space if they do not want to discuss it. However, talking about it should not be constantly pushed back to the point of being too late.

If they constantly refuse to discuss it with you, try being direct as to why you are bringing it up with them. Be honest and tell them you are doing it because you want to help them, and putting it off constantly will do more harm than good.

Don’t be afraid to be honest with them about how it could affect you, too. Without adequate planning, it could be strenuous on you mentally and financially by not bringing it to their attention.

Involve Other Family Members

Chances are, you aren’t the only one who should consider your parents’ end-of-life care. If you have siblings, involve them in helping your parents determine what they desire in the end.

Getting your siblings involved can help motivate them to be more open about their end-of-life care. Having a bigger support group may make them feel more comfortable. It can also be less stressful, taking some weight off your shoulders.

If you don’t have any siblings, reach out to other family members who are close to them. They may feel more comfortable and open to discussing their end-of-life goals with another family member. If that's the case, don't be offended; just be happy they’re being open.

Show Love and Support

Ultimately, the most important thing is to show your love and support, even during the challenging parts of the end-of-life discussions.

Sometimes, you and your parents will disagree on some beliefs. You might feel overwhelmed because what they desire may not be feasible, especially if it involves you having to care for them.

During these times of tension, be sure to keep track of the intended purpose, which is to help them by loving and supporting them as best as you can.

End-of-Life Care Discussion Topics

end-of-life care discussion topics

It’s important to have discussion topics ready before you start talking with them about end-of-life preparations. Here are some common things to bring up:

Long-Term Care Arrangements

Determining your parents’ long-term care arrangements should be a priority, as preparations take time.

Ask them what forms of long-term treatment they would prefer. Do they mind living in a nursing home or assisted living? Do they have a preference toward a particular option or facility compared to another?

Have an honest and open discussion about the different types and levels of care available to them.

Pain Management

Understanding your parents’ views on pain management should be considered depending on their beliefs.

Do they have any strict beliefs when it comes to things such as drug usage to manage pain? If they’re not okay with having to use drugs as a method to prolong life, it’s important to consider that when finding the right facility for them.

Family Involvement

Determining how much your parents want the family to be involved is important. Family involvement might mean making extra preparations to honor that request.

For example, if they hope you and your siblings will care for them, you need to decide if it’s feasible, as it demands resources from you.

If you decide you can’t offer in-home services, you need to find another solution for them that will work in their favor.

End-of-Life Wishes

If your parents have a bucket list of experiences they wish to accomplish, encourage them to pursue those things while they still can.

You can choose to be as little or as involved as possible in helping them achieve their wishes. However, helping them do so could greatly improve your relationship and help create good final memories.

Assistance in Finalizing the Will

They may or may not ask you to assist them in arranging their will. If they approach you, consider helping them in the creation of it.

Your involvement can help them feel more at ease when they pass on. Write the will according to how they want it. Try to avoid causing conflict when it comes down to who gets what.

Other Practical Considerations

In some cases, another determining factor comes into play and should be discussed regarding what happens after your parents’ passing.

For example, if they have pets, there needs to be a plan for what happens to them afterward. Adopting them as your pets means making preparations for their arrival.

You may also need to discuss how to handle their bills. Do they plan on having you help cover the bills or someone else if needed? These are just some things to consider.

Find and Keep Documents Safe

As your parents age, they need help keeping track of their important documents to prevent them from being lost.

If you need a place to store and secure their documents, look no further. Here at Trustworthy, we specialize in organization and security so you can rest well knowing your family documents are safe.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you tell a parent they are going to hospice?

If you have to send a loved one to hospice, it’s important to keep emphasizing you will continue to give love and support to them. Explain to them how they will receive better care, and you can focus more on quality time with them.

How do you start an end-of-life conversation?

There are many ways to start an end-of-life discussion. One way could be to ask them a simple question: “What's on your bucket list?” It can be a gateway to eventually leading to other topics such as files and end-of-life goals.

Try Trustworthy today.

Try Trustworthy today.

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