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Starting a Difficult Conversation With a Loved One

We created this short video that includes useful information about how to start difficult conversations about the future with your loved ones. We invite you to download our free guide on "Starting the Conversation". This guide offers tips and specific examples to help guide your approach when discussing the future with your loved ones.

Download Free Starting the Conversation Guide

Video Transcript:

Hi, I'm Jonathan Marsh, I'm the owner of Home Helpers of Bradenton. Today, we're going to talk about starting difficult conversations with loved ones. Let's go.

Well, all right. Thank you so much for joining me today. Let me ask you a quick question. You ever had a conversation where after the conversation you're thinking, "That didn't go too well."? You know, well, we're going to talk about those types of conversations today.

Three words that I want to start with: independence, choice, and control. These are three concepts that are important to me, to you, your sister, your brother, your mother, your father, basically, any competent adult, and this includes seniors. So, today, what I want to talk about is how to have productive conversations with our loved ones about the future.

We as adult children oftentimes try to put on that superhero cape to try to make things right, to try to fix things. We're certainly coming from a place of love, but then we're oftentimes met with that realization that maybe the conversation didn't go the way we wanted it to go, right? Maybe we weren't able to help Mom or Dad more, but we could have had we approached the conversation differently.

If your objective is to try to convince Mom or Dad to see things your way then you're setting yourself up for a very difficult conversation, right? Because competent adults like to make their own decisions. So, while we as a family member or a caregiver can try to insist on them seeing things our way, we can't make the decisions for them, even if they're going to make a bad decision. Now, you may recognize some of the phrases on the screen that have resulted in unproductive, confrontational, and argumentative conversations in the past, not with just seniors, but just people in general.

"It would be easier for everybody if you just--"

"I am just trying to help."

"You'd be happier if I just--"

"Why don't you just--"

"I think you should--"

"You know what you could do?"

It's funny, but if you think about it, these are things that we have probably said in the past, in past conversations that didn't go well. So, when preparing for a difficult conversation, take off that superhero cape, take off the cape, because it's very unlikely that your loved one wants to be rescued, right?

Ask open-ended questions to try to help and try to collaborate to make the best decision, right? We need to hear the other person's perspective before we can even contribute to a solution to make a recommendation, right? So, work with them, not for them, and support them in this decision-making process.

So, remember, this cape, and as glorious as this cape may be, you've got to take the cape off. So, make sure you take the cape off before you approach these conversations with your loved one.

So, let's take this example where a son is talking to his mother, "Mom, wouldn't it be easier "if you just moved to a smaller place?" He's recognizing that Mom has a lot of responsibility, she's not as capable of taking care of things like maybe she once used to, right? And she's not getting around, it's not as easy for her to get around as it once was, right? And this is coming from a place of love. But ironically, what she might be hearing is he's trying to lock me up, he's trying to put me in a nursing home, he's trying to take away my independence, and yet again, you know, like I was saying before, this is all coming from a place of love.

Instead, what I'm recommending is a shift that helps you frame these conversations in such a way that are helpful and productive. So, you want to make sure you're asking those open-ended questions. So, instead of saying, Mom, you should move into a smaller place, you want to talk about the challenges that may come up and help her to come up with solutions that would be appropriate based on her needs and understanding.

So, you might say, "Mom, "as you get older, "how are you gonna take care of the house?" Right? A question like that that's open-ended helps to start an overarching conversation where you understand her desires, right? And get a better understanding of what she feels the challenges are, and then you can work together to come up with solutions that are appropriate, right? This gives her the opportunity to be in control and to continue to age independently based on where she currently is in life.

So, you want to have these conversations with your loved one sooner than later before there's an immediate need. What do they want in their golden years? And what is expected of family members? And what is reasonably expected of you as a family member? Aging is a part of living, so, similar to how someone may plan for college while they're in high school or how someone may plan for retirement while they're still working, we should be planning for our less-capable years before the need becomes urgent.

Another obstacle that we oftentimes face is listening with our problem-solving brains as opposed to listening with our hearts. And what do I mean by that? There's oftentimes a difference between what your loved one is saying versus what they are really telling you. So, for example, Mom might say, "Well, you know, the paper ain't worth reading anymore." Well, she might be saying that the stories aren't good anymore, but she also might be saying it's very difficult to get out to get the paper. Or she might be saying that it's very difficult to read the small print. So, we have to take the information received and ask enough clarifying questions to get to the heart of the matter. So, in other words, what is the difference between what is being said versus what he or she is really telling you?

Thank you so much for watching the video today. If you found this video helpful and you'd like more tips, click the link in the comments or in the description of this post (depending on what platform you're on) to go to our website and download our free guide. It's got a lot of leading questions and tips that are going to help you start that conversation. Also, please like and share. We appreciate it. Thank you so much, and we'll see you next time.


Home Helpers of Bradenton is one of the region's leading home care franchises specializing in comprehensive services for seniors. Home Helpers' sole mission is to make life easier for clients and their families. Based in Bradenton, Florida, the company serves all of Manatee County, including the communities of Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Ellenton, Holmes Beach, Lakewood Ranch, Longboat Key, Palmetto, and Parrish. For more information or to request a free in-home care assessment, contact our office at (941) 499-5946 or visit our website at