4 Powerful Tips for When Your Parents Refuse to Discuss Elder Care

Have you ever tried to have “the talk” with your parents about how they want to be cared for as they get older, but they just won’t go there? 

Raise your hand if: 

🙋‍♀️Your parents are incredibly private, tight-lipped, and won’t talk to you about anything personal, especially not about health wishes or eldercare finances 

🙋‍♀️You’ve tried to have a sit-down session to hash out future plans, but they just get up and leave instead.

🙋‍♀️Every time you’ve broached the topic, they’ve told you that the only way they’re leaving their house is in a pine box.

First, I want you to know you’re not alone. You’re part of a very large community of adult children who feel frustrated, worried, and often heartbroken over their parents’ refusal to sit down and just talk it out.

So, what CAN you do to prepare as your parents age when they won’t partner and prepare with you? 🤔

Here are 4 powerful tips to help you plan for your aging parents when they refuse to talk about it.


1. Empower Yourself with Knowledge

Knowledge can give you the confidence to handle whatever lies ahead. With your parents’ permission, talk to their doctor and medical team and learn about what to expect regarding their health conditions. 

Reach out to other family members or close friends who might have insights or know about plans your parents have shared.

You can also ask your parents to share any paperwork or advance care planning documents they may have already filled out. Even if they don’t want to discuss it, knowing these documents exist will provide some comfort.

2. Empower Yourself With Resources

Even if your parents won’t partner with you, you can still research community resources that could be helpful in the future. Explore local services such as home care agencies, adult day centers, assisted living facilities, and local aging centers. Social workers or Care Managers can be a great resource, offering support and connecting you to valuable community services. 

It could be as simple as gathering a list of nearby home care agencies or even visiting a few assisted living facilities to get a sense of their offerings and associated costs. This preparation can make a significant difference when the time comes to make decisions.

3. Plan NOW for an Emergency

Start by creating an emergency contact list that includes their doctors, close family members, and trusted neighbors. Keep medical information, such as a list of their medications, allergies, and medical conditions, readily accessible. 

Also, think ahead about what you’d need to do if you suddenly had to hop on a flight or drive a couple of hours to care for your parent in an emergency. Consider logistics like finding a babysitter for your kids, having your spouse fill in, or understanding your workplace’s policy regarding family emergencies. Brainstorming these scenarios now can make navigating a crisis in the future easier.


4. Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting boundaries is a loving and compassionate way to maintain a healthy relationship with your parents while safeguarding your own well-being.  Get crystal clear on what you’re willing and able to do and, just as importantly, what you’re not able to do. For example, you might be comfortable driving your parents to medical appointments but not moving in to provide round-the-clock care.

Communicate your limits to your parents and other family members. Remember, it’s absolutely okay to say “No”. Yes, it’s tough. Yes, it might come with waves of guilt and disappointment from others. AND knowing your boundaries and sticking to them can help you support your parents without sacrificing your own health and happiness.


Bottom Line

Even If your parents refuse to discuss how they want to be cared for as they get older, there are still things you CAN do to prepare for what’s to come. That way, instead of panicking in a crisis, you’ll be saying, “Okay, they may not have prepared for this, but I have.”

Now I’d Love to Hear From You!

1. Which of these tips will you try out?

2. What strategies have you used to plan ahead when your aging parents won’t?

Let me know in the comments below.

Here for you 💖

Ashwini Bapat, MD

PS: Feeling overwhelmed by the resentment, frustration, and heartbreak that arise when your parents won’t partner with you as they get older? 💔 Click here to discover how coaching can transform your journey, helping you go from feeling powerless to empowered as you navigate caring for your aging parents. 

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Ashwini Bapat, MD is a board-certified Palliative Care and Hospice Physician, coach, and co-founder of EpioneMD Caregiver Coaching. She completed her Internal Medicine Residency and Hospice & Palliative Medicine Fellowship at Yale University, before working at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She’s devoted to empowering caregivers so that they’re seen, heard, and supported.



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