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Role Reversal: Parenting Aging Parents

Ninety percent of people aged 65 and over would prefer to stay in their own homes as opposed to living in a nursing home or assisted living facility, says Gail Lohmann, owner of Visiting Angels (, who cited an AARP study. With her company, she’s driven to help older adults live at home safely and comfortably, whatever their situation.

“We make this possible by helping seniors with tasks and activities that have become difficult or unsafe to perform on their own, [whether it’s] errands, cooking, laundry, and light housekeeping, or daily living tasks like grooming, dressing, and bathing,” she says.

In another 2020 study from AARP, more than one in five adults—a total of 53 million adult Americans—are now unpaid family caregivers. Between 2015 and 2020, the number of people caring for a loved one aged 50 or older grew from 34.2 million to 41.8 million.

Whether you’re hesitating to discuss your wishes with your children or you’re the child who will soon start caring for your aging parent(s), we have expert advice on how to ensure open and honest conversations between parents and children.

Liz Heape-Caldwell, BS, MBA, CMC-COO, and certified care manager at Elder Options (, says clear communication must be priority. “Plan ahead and talk with your [family] about what you want,” Heape-Caldwell says. “For example, do you want to remain at home? Move to assisted living? Make your wishes known ahead of time and communicate with your loved ones.”

Carol S. Heape, MSW, CMC, and CEO of Elder Options, suggests asking your parents how they envision their later years as well as asking everyone—including kids, grandkids, and parents—about their worries and concerns. “This is called a ‘family meeting’ and can be held in-person or virtually by a professional care manager who will not only facilitate the discussion but is a community expert on programs and costs,” Heape says. “Planning ahead and having discussions around this within the family can be so helpful. Waiting until a crisis occurs seems to precipitate some hurried and sometimes awful decisions.”

Ask your parents how they envision their later years


Heape-Caldwell also suggests evaluating your own resources, as well as ones available within your community. “Perhaps you have a long-term care policy that you’ve been paying into for years. Do your loved ones know about this policy and how to activate it?” she says. “If your family doesn’t know your wishes or what is available for help as you need it, they’re more likely to be working in ‘crisis mode.’”

Lohmann suggests having a list of questions ready to ask when researching agencies for in-home care for your loved one. “Some important questions to ask include: Is your agency licensed, bonded, and insured? How do you screen your caregivers and what background checks and drug screenings do you do? What kind of experience and training do your caregivers have? How do you monitor your caregivers? If our schedule changes, can we make adjustments? Can we reach your staff after hours if there is an emergency?” Lohmann says.

Wilczewski also suggests having a family meeting to discuss everyone’s wants


Choosing to retire in a senior living community is a good choice for many, but finding the best fit can be challenging, just like buying a car or a house, explains Chris Smith, regional director of operations at Milestone Retirement Communities and Sonrisa Senior Living ( Ask yourself what's important "in a community"—thinking location, level of luxury, services, and amenities,” he says.

If you’ll be downsizing to a senior living community for retirement, Smith shares two tips to prep your house for sale. “First, hire a real estate agent. They know the market, how to price your house appropriately, and will handle all the details for you. Second, stage your house to sell by decluttering, depersonalizing, cleaning, lightening, and brightening. A good real estate agent will show you how.”

When it comes to finances, Chris Wilczewski, CFP, CRPS, and financial advisor with Edward Jones ( /us-en/financial-advisor/chris-wilczewski), says many people have their estate in place but don’t realize it needs to be reviewed periodically. “Laws change and lives change but documents don’t. Every three to five years, documents should be checked to make sure they still line up with intentions,” he says.

Wilczewski also suggests having a family meeting to discuss everyone’s wants and wishes as well as responsibilities split between siblings. “It’s tough, but every family should have a discussion—while Mom and Dad still have their wits about them—about what [they] would like to happen,” he says. “Many of the tensions and fights I see have to do with lack of clarity around who is responsible for what.”

by Kourtney Jason
Photo © © Mandic- ©