Family Conversations

Making decisions for your family’s future – today, tomorrow and beyond

Every family is unique, with its own culture, personalities, personal dynamics and history. From time to time, all families come up against problems that may be difficult for them to resolve.

Some difficult situations involving older adults and their families can often benefit with help from relatives and friends. Some may also need help from health services, social services, or other agencies and professionals.

Family Conversations are a way of giving people the chance to get together to try and make the best plan possible for their family. To make decisions that are respectful, caring and supportive.

Breaking the Ice: When and How to Begin


Some people recommend the direct approach – sharing your own emotions about your parents or older loved one’s changing situation and encouraging them to do the same.

"I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all these changes, Mom. I can only imagine that it’s especially painful for you right now."

"Dad, I know you’ve always prided yourself on being very independent. I feel it’s very difficult for you to ask for assistance now that you can’t drive anymore. Is that right?"

Other people are uncomfortable with jumping right into the discussion, and so maybe giving your parents a list of questions or concerns and scheduling a later time to sit down and talk about them.

Another approach is to watch for "natural" opportunities. Watch for openings your parents give, such as mentioning a need, concern, goal, or small problem that could be a major impediment to their independence.


In other cases, events will trigger the opportunity for discussion – the diagnosis of a parent’s illness, an injury or fall, the death or increasing frailty of a parent’s spouse or close friend.

For many of us this is often the most difficult part of the process - when and how to start the conversation.

Although it might seem difficult to imagine, often having a facilitated meeting allows families to come together to discuss issues with each other in a safe and neutral setting. They learn to understand the facilitators are there to keep people focused, help make sure the conversations don’t get out of hand, and to help people really listen to each other.


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