The talk is rarely an easy conversation. Learn how to handle the transition with grace and compassion.

By Melissa Walker; Illustration Michael er

"The dialogue should start before a move becomes

imminent. The first talk was tough, since my mom

didn't want to leave home. Then there was a medical

crisis. When a change had to be made, I told her

that my sisters and I wanted her to be part of the

decision—otherwise it'd be us standing in a hospital

corridor trying to figure out where she should go. She

appreciated the honesty and we signed her up for a

good place soon after that." AMY DICKINSON, author and the Chicago Tribune's syndicated "Ask Amy" advice columnist

"Meet with an elder law attorney before health concerns arise. You can also discuss long-term care insurance. It's expensive, but not as costly as a home nurse or nursing home. Talk to an independent insurance advisor and look for long-term care policies that are indexed for inflation. Also consider a springing

power of attorney, which puts you in charge of your parents' finances if, and only if, they become incapacitated." KEN MAHONEY, financial advisor and author ofNow What? A Guide to Retirement During Volatile Times

"If you disagree with family members about the next

steps for your parents, don't let mom and dad see you fighting. Siblings regress to childish behavior when the emotional stakes are raised. Go somewhere

public, where everyone is more apt to speak politely. You can also talk it through with a social worker

or counselor, minister or rabbi. Remember your

common goal — taking care of your parents with love

and respect." LAUREN BLOOM, JD, author of Art of the Apology


  • Check their fridge. Is the milk expired and the produce spoiled? The kitchen holds clues to whether your parents can still live independently.
  • Try to understand their point of view. Being told you have to move because you are infirm is difficult. Remind them that you'll always be there to help.
  • Determine what each family member can contribute. The sister who's good with paperwork can fill out forms. The brother who's a great communicator can
    handle calls with caregivers.
  • Make the new place feel like home. Bring mementoes for their room or their favorite foods when you visit.


Assisted Living Federation of America,

Caregiving Resource Center,