The holiday season is a time to honor family traditions and make resolutions for the New Year. What better time, then, to talk to your parents about their future? Deciding where to live and who will care for your parents should the need arise is one of the most complex decisions facing retirees. Planning ahead for the later stages of retirement can help you and your loved ones avoid difficult, and often costly, situations in the future.

Questions to consider Do your parents want to age in place as long as possible or move to a retirement community? What are the implications of the various choices and which is best for their unique situation? What is your parents plan for long-term care, do they have an insurance policy in place? Are you or a family member prepared to act as a primary caregiver in the event of chronic illness or injury? Have your parents considered continuing care retirement communities, a more comprehensive retirement living concept, that could help meet their housing and health care needs as they get older?

While it may not be possible to predict exactly what your parents health care and long term requirements will be, having a plan in place can help alleviate stress when needs arrive. It is never too early to open this dialogue with your parents. Studies show that the majority of households with people ages 65+ are concerned about becoming a burden to their adult children, so your parents may be more willing to talk about this than you realize!

Here are some tips to help break the ice:

• Be casual. Start with something like: “Mom and Dad, this house has been good to you for a long time hasn’t it? Do you think you want to live here as long as possible?”

• Ask if your parents have long-term care insurance and/or VA benefits. If they do, ask how these programs fit into their overall plan, and how these benefits will meet their expectations for future retirement living and care. If they do not, it is important to ask about how they will pay for long-term care should they require it. 

• We all know—or have read—about people who are challenged by the demands of caring for a loved one. Consider asking the hypothetical question, “What would we do if something like that happened in our family?”

• Make sure siblings and loved ones are aware of or your parents’ plans, allowing time to plan and adjust makes changes easier on everyone.

• Ultimately, you know your parents better than anyone, so consider if the direct approach is best. If so, just ask what their long-term plans are. Where do they want to live and who will provide for their needs if their circumstances or health status change? Although it may be awkward to get your parents to start talking about plans for the later stages of their retirement, the peace of mind it will provide for your family is well worth the effort.

While it may be easy to avoid this topic now the peace of mind it will provide for the future is well worth it. Hopefully these tips will help get you started on the right path to planning. 


Brad is co-founder of My LifeSite (formerly LifeSite Logics), a North Carolina company that develops web-based tools and resources designed to help families make better-informed decisions when considering a continuing care retirement community. Brad previously spent thirteen years as a financial advisor before starting My LifeSite and still maintains the Certified Financial Planner™ certification. His extensive knowledge of the retirement living industry, combined with his financial planning background, allows him to provide valuable insights about lifestyle, healthcare, and financial planning considerations related to this significant life decision. He’s frequently quoted in national media such as Kiplinger’s Magazine, Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch, USA Today and the New York Times. Brad is the author of a book released in 2014 titled, “What’s the Deal with Retirement Communities?” and speaks regularly for retirement living providers, industry trade organizations, life-long learning classes, and other groups across the country.