Do's and Don'ts When TalkingAbout Long Term Care

It’s time to focus on what really matters and make some important decisions for your family’s future.

Discussions around long term care for your loved ones can be emotional and require managing family dynamics. By starting these talks early, you’ll know what everyone’s expectations are and be able to plan ahead. It’s much harder to start planning when you’re in the middle of a major life event that might require long term care. In addition, options may become limited at that point. The following tips will help you prepare for this important conversation:


Talk in person

This is a conversation that’s best had face-to-face. Carve out an unpressured time with your loved one(s) to talk openly and honestly. If physical distance or self-quarantine is a factor, consider using video technology, like Zoom or FaceTime, so you can see each other’s faces while you talk. Since this is a sensitive topic, it’s important to read facial cues and adjust your approach, if needed.

Include a Mediator

If family dynamics make it challenging to plan care for your loved one(s), include an unbiased and objective mediator in the conversation. This person could be a professional mediator, a family therapist, or a geriatric case worker. Treat this as a business meeting by creating an agenda and establishing ground rules, such as five minutes of uninterrupted speaking time per person.

Bring your sense of humor

While this topic can be serious, your approach doesn’t have to be. Think of times you’ve had conversations about other difficult topics and use any ways that may have worked in the past to put them at ease. A relaxed demeanor and a shared laugh can go a long way toward helping the conversation flow.

Listen actively

Hear your loved ones out when they discuss their plans and feelings around long term care and ask questions. Listen closely to their answers and share your own thoughts in an open and respectful manner. Even if the answers aren’t what you want to hear, it’s important that you hear them through.

Go with the flow

While you may have a mental checklist of all the topics you would like to cover, stay focused and really listen. You may learn something new or unexpected along the way. Most importantly, following where the conversation leads can give you a deeper understanding of your loved one(s) and what their wishes are for the future.

Allow time

Give this important conversation the time it needs; there will likely be a lot of back-and-forth which will take time and energy to get through. Scheduling the conversation for when there aren’t time constraints will help alleviate pressure for all involved.

Communicate through Email

If face-to-face conversations aren’t possible or aren’t productive, consider emailing your family member(s) instead. This will give you time to compose and edit your message before sending.

Plan for a follow-up conversation

An initial conversation is an important first step. Remember to keep the discussion going to solidify long term care wishes. The next time you talk, it may be appropriate to come prepared with planning material. For more information, check out What To Do After Your Long Term Care Conversation.


“I” versus “You”

When discussing personal feelings and experiences, it’s helpful to state your own feelings and not assume you know someone else’s. Use “I” instead of “You.” This can go a long way toward making sure no one feels accused or criticized, which in turn can make them feel defensive.


If this is your first time discussing this topic, focus more on the feeling and the emotions around the subject. Avoid bringing up too many statistics or actively filling out forms. That can be overwhelming, especially for an initial conversation.

Make decisions beforehand

Your loved ones need time to process information and research any additional questions they might have. If you seem to have made all the decisions for them without their input, it can be demeaning and make them feel like their wishes and preferences don’t matter. Acting on decisions made during the talk can be much easier when those decisions are made by the whole family together.

Discuss when emotions are heated

If you sense there is tension before the initial conversation, reschedule the talk for another day. If you notice tensions rising during the conversation, take a break and pick it up another day. It may be helpful to create a common goal as a family unit, and come back to that goal if emotions start to run high.

Assume old roles

Old family roles and habits can sometimes make this talk more difficult. Try a more objective approach, as if you were having this conversation with a more casual acquaintance. Asking questions and listening without interrupting can help keep the conversation respectful and mature.

By having an open and honest conversation with your loved one(s) about long term care, you can create a plan together that will may help them to live life on their terms.

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206401A4M 09/22/20