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Hurdles Often Stand in Way of Communicating Aging Issues


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August 1, 2014

According to research conducted by the Home Instead Senior Care® network, two in five adult children (39%) surveyed in the U.S., and more than one-third (36%) surveyed in Canada, have at least one barrier that prevents them from having conversations with their parents about aging or end of life.

Barriers and hurdles can get in the way of candid family conversations about a variety of topics such as living and financial choices, health, relationships and dating, driving and end of life.
Here are a few concerns that could create problems for families. Some are from a senior’s perspective, others from an adult child or family. Do any sound familiar?

Living Choices

  • Seniors fear loss of independence, which could include giving up on certain freedoms such as driving.
  • Families are concerned about the cost of receiving assistance at home or moving to a care community.
  • Seniors are afraid they will be forced to leave their home.
  • Families are not aware of what their options might be.
  • Individuals may struggle with giving up possessions if they are down-sizing.

Financial Choices

  • Individuals may fear outliving their money, and don’t have the understanding or resources to help take control of their situation.
  • Parents feel their financial situation is none of their adult children’s business.
  • Parents don’t want to be a burden.
  • Adult children may want to help financially but can’t.


  • Medications are expensive. Can I afford them? Who will pay?
  • Reluctance to bother family members. “My doctor and I are dealing with it. My kids don’t need to worry.”
  • The feeling that if I avoid talking and thinking about this, maybe it will go away.
  • The attitude: “I’m old anyway, so why should it matter.”
  • “I am intimidated by my doctor and don’t understand him/her.”

Relationships and Dating

  • Adult children worry how their parent’s new relationship will impact the family dynamic and issues such as inheritance.
  • Families worry about losing holiday traditions or their annual vacation.
  • Feelings of rejection: “I’m no longer a priority because Mom/Dad found a replacement.”
  • Individuals may fear being alone or lonely.
  • Seniors may fear losing privacy and intimate relationships when they move into a care community.


  • Seniors fear they won’t be able to get around if they have to quit driving.
  • Adult children worry that seniors will hurt themselves or someone else.
  • Older adults could have an inaccurate perception of their ability to drive.
  • Adult children could feel it’s disrespectful to ask a parent to give up his or her keys.
  • Individuals don’t want to bring up problems or may hide accidents for fear that they will lose driving privileges.

End of Life

  • People think they still have plenty of time to address end-of-life issues.
  • Families don’t want to think about it; talking makes their mortality real.
  • “I’m afraid talking about this will lead to a family fight.”
  • “I don’t want to worry my kids.”
  • “I don’t know where to start the conversation.”
  • If you’re dealing with any of these issues, consider completing the 40-70 Rule®: An Action Plan for Successful AgingSM (US or Canada).

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