Let’s talk: have you spoken with your parents about their health? 11

The Tough Stuff


View Profile

Our new The Tough Stuff series has been addressing the difficult questions we usually choose to avoid. Our mission is to encourage positive action and peace of mind in the Starts at 60 community through friendly, supportive discussion.

Today we’ll be discussing one of the toughest topics of all: our parents’ health.

Those of us lucky enough to still have our parents are now facing some difficult questions. The day their health declines, what will their wishes be? Could we confidently make an important medical decision on their behalf? Do our values truly align with theirs?

Even for those of us with a mother and/or father in peak form, we carry the understanding that health, at that age, can change swiftly and without notice. In many ways, this can make it even harder to broach the topic. It feels unnecessary, but it won’t be forever.

Who should initiate the discussion? Did you have to ask? Have they brought it up with you?

For some of us at the Starts at 60 office, our parents were practical and proactive long ago, bringing their wishes into casual conversation, and putting it in writing as easily as they would a will.

For others, it was a full family affair; an organised group discussion, carefully planned and timed. Few people are comfortable contemplating their own mortality, so it can be natural for them to want to avoid the topic. But in some situations, a more assertive approach may be required. Considering one’s values is a great place to start.

Consider leading by example: record your own personal choices for yourself and, if you are comfortable doing so, discuss them openly with your parents. This can begin a long-term dialogue that will, in a small but very important way, lead to serious consideration of what is most important; information that is vital to guide future decision making.


Have you ever had to have this tough discussion? And if not, what is stopping you from moving forward?

This Let’s Talk discussion is sponsored by MyValues, an easy, quick and free online service where you (or your loved ones) can record your wishes, avoiding any confusion over your values should the worst happen, and encouraging serious thought over what we really want for our future. Learn more about this invaluable service at the MyValues website.


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Yes
    And my mum is insistent that she is never to be placed in a nursing home. It’s very difficult when your parent is this stubborn. I want to support my mum and adhere to her wishes. She is 93 and has some minor issues with her memory. But she still lives independently. We just have to wait and see what the future brings
    As for myself, I have signed all the necessary paperwork which allows my daughter to place me in a nursing home if recommended by a doctor.

    2 REPLY
    • Dianne Backshall
      It’s called an Advanced Care Directive.
      I have also done a Power of Attorney and an Enduring Power of Attorney.
      In all three documents I have made it clear that they can only be acted on if advised to by a licensed medical doctor.
      These documents allow you to say what treatment you will or will not agree to and whether or not you want resuscitation.

  2. It may be difficult for some, I have always had open dialogue with my mother, and we have had the tough talks. I brought it up when I told her about the plans I had made, and showed her the documents and when her nurse came I asked about if they had the forms and they were provided for my mother and it was then taken care of. Especially as she had been visiting a friend in a nursing home and Mother stated ” I don’t want to end up like that”, being tube fed and existing, no longer living. My adult children each have a copy of my pre paid funeral documents, my will and advanced health care directive. I have provided copies of my dvanced health care directive to my Doctor and both hospitals, one in the town where I live and one with the hospital in the city and Blue Care also have a copy. I feel it is very important and we need to have these discussions. The topics can be introduced into conversation. We owe it to our parents and our children to have these issues clearly defined.

  3. My boys and daughters in law know I trust them to do what is best for me. But I really need to be in that coffin wearing a pair of stilettos I want to walk eternity wearing the shoes I can no longer wear but absolutely adore. Life has a way of choosing its own path we really can only guide them often decisions are made for us.

  4. I would be interested to know just how many of us have living parents? Mine would be 110 if they were still alive! I have had the discussion with my children, NOT my parents!

  5. My parents are both deceased and hubby and I have no children so we instigated the conversation with siblings and their children. My mother shared all her end of life wishes with us calmly and openly; people were surprised to learn we had talked about death, but why not? Surely if we can gossip, we can share important information with our loved ones.

  6. We talked a lot about it as my Husband was very sick. It is importend to clearly under stand the wishes. I keep him home with me, and after I Passover we will go together in one plot. I get a lot of comfort knowing he his in our house.

  7. Difficult but important conversations to have – i have spoken to my parents, and also told my children my explicit wishes so no one is left with any lingering doubt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *