Key Discussions Families Don’t Have


by Loretta Hartzell 

Nearly three-quarters of people wouldn’t know what to do if they found out a family member needed long term care, according to the 2011 Genworth Financial Reality Check Study.

That might be because more than 90% have not discussed key long term care topics with their spouses, children or parents.

When it comes to long term care, do you know what your loved ones would want? Would they rather receive care at home or in a facility with round-the-clock nursing staff? Do they have money set aside or are they planning on using public programs like Medicaid? Are they counting on relatives for financial support or hands-on care?

Having honest conversations now gives you a chance to get important documents and policies in place. It can help your loved ones understand which options are actually realistic. And it can bring families together around an important topic that could affect all of you.

As with most things in life, the first step is the hardest. Here are six ways to start the conversation:

Discuss someone else’s situation

Chances are you or your loved ones know someone who is already dealing with some aspect of aging and long term care. Talking about their experience and choices can help shed light on how your loved one views these challenges.

Mention an article or website

Give them an article or a link to a site with information about planning ahead, family conversations and long term care costs, and use it to start a conversation about the issues, not each other.

Ask for advice

Tell your loved one that you’re starting a retirement account or preparing a will and ask for their advice. Then ask how they planned ahead and if they feel prepared.

Grab an opening

Imagine your mother is talking about a friend who lives in a nursing home, and she says “I hope I don’t end up like that.” Ask your mother what she means. What would be a better situation? What would she want in the same circumstances? Let her know your understand her perspective, and share yours too.

Write it down

Consider writing a letter or email outlining your concerns and what you would like to discuss. This can be particularly helpful if you live far away and only have a weekend to have these talks. You can pave the way and get them to start thinking about it before you get together.

Give up ownership of the conversation

Maybe you have a sibling who is more at ease talking with your parents. Or maybe your parents are more comfortable talking to someone else in the family or a close friend about finances or health.

Don’t be offended. You just want someone to know what’s what.

Whatever your relationship with your loved ones – good, bad, indifferent or complicated – it’s important to find a way to talk. Good communication allows you to be proactive now, rather than reactive later.

Loretta Hartzell is a licensed long term care insurance with an office in Greenville, SC and can be reached at (864) 232-1161 or (800) 293-2246 or