Don’t Make These 3 Mistakes When Talking To Parents About Their Health

Talking to your parents about their wishes as they age can feel uncomfortable, awkward, and tricky. For many people, this is a looming, dreaded conversation that goes nowhere. 

That’s why I’m sharing 3 common pitfalls and how to steer clear of them – so that you can have meaningful conversations that bring you and your parents closer. 

Don’t: Assume You Know What’s Best. 

Do: Ask them what they want

It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming you know what’s best for your parents without truly understanding their desires and preferences. Before jumping to conclusions or making decisions on their behalf, take the time to engage in meaningful conversations. Ask open-ended questions and actively listen to their responses. 

Your parents are the experts in their own lives, and their input should guide the discussion. AND your parents’ perspectives and priorities may differ from your own. You can foster a sense of partnership and mutual understanding by seeking their input and respecting their autonomy.

Don’t: Start With the Tough Questions 

Do: Start with Easier Questions

Broaching sensitive topics such as end-of-life preferences or financial planning can feel overwhelming for you and your parents. Instead of diving into the deep end right away, start with lighter questions that pave the way for more in-depth discussions.

Consider asking about their hopes for retirement, or what they’re looking forward to in the coming years. By beginning on a positive and less intimidating note, you can build trust and rapport, easing into more complex discussions, organically. 


Don’t: Treat It as a one-and-done convo

Do: Keep the conversation going

Laying the foundation for how your parents want to be cared for as they grow older is an ongoing conversation, that evolves over time. While it may be tempting to view the conversation as a one-time event, the reality is that your parent’s needs and preferences will change as they age.

Therefore, it’s essential to keep the lines of communication open and check-in periodically, especially if there are any major life events like a new diagnosis, worsening health, or a death in the family. 

Bottom Line

By avoiding these three common mistakes and embracing a collaborative approach, you can foster meaningful conversations that empower your parents to articulate their desires and preferences. Remember, the goal is not to impose your agenda but to support your parents and help them age successfully. 


Want to learn the best approaches to starting a conversation with your parents? 

Join our online course Unlock the Conversation! Click here and learn more!


Here for you 💖

Ashwini Bapat, MD

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Ashwini Bapat, MD is a board-certified Palliative Care and Hospice Physician, coach, and co-founder of EpioneMD. 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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