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Conversation starters: tips and sample questions

Having a conversation with an elderly parent or loved one about their aging, safety, independence, and health can be tough and feel intimidating. However, it’s often a necessary conversation and statistics show that you might not have as much to worry about as you would think:* 
  • 90% of people think it's important to talk about their end-of-life wishes with their loved ones. 
  • 27% have had an end-of-life conversation.

Tips for getting started

How you approach discussions with your aging loved one is almost as important as the topics you’ll cover.
First, be patient. Declines in your loved one’s health, cognitive ability, independence are legitimate causes for fear and emotional unease. Understand that these conversations can take time to process—try not to get frustrated.
Pick your spot. Choose a time and place where you and your loved one won't feel rushed. Try to anticipate interruptions and conversational derailments.
Don't take it personally. Intense emotions are rarely about you—aging raises difficult topics and sensitive issues. Try to reframe what you can do together to help your loved one stay safe and remain independent as long as possible. 
Practice. Make notes, enlist a friend to role-play, and rehearse the conversation in your head so you can feel confident and relaxed in real-time. 
Keep talking. Agree to disagree, take breaks, and keep the conversation going over time. Realize that difficult discussions take time, patience, and perseverance. Don't try to tackle everything at once. Start small and celebrate success. Pace yourself.

Conversation starter questions

Knowing how to start a conversation with your loved one can be hard. Here are a few questions you could ask to get things going. 

  • How do you think you're doing with _____________? 
  • What does being able to _____________ mean to you? 
  • What would it mean to you if we ___________? 
  • How will doing __________help you to _________? 
  • What's the next best thing we can do to __________? 
  • How would you feel if we ____________?

Start a conversation

We'll meet you where you are on your financial journey and help you get to where you want to be.

More to explore

*Amy Goyer and Andy Markowitz, “How to Start a Conversation About End-of-Life Care,” AARP, October 14, 2021,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.