There is generally only one conversation that children never want to have with their parents, and that is long-term planning. You may see the signs already—an aging parent is having a hard time handling the basics of independent living such as getting dressed or keeping food in the house. Or it might be that dad keeps blowing through stop signs at 50 miles per hour since his reaction time is reduced. Or maybe mom and dad’s neighborhood is going down the toilet and the family home is in disrepair due to lack of maintenance. Talking about these things can be very difficult, and they can be very hot topics, ones we want to avoid but have to address.

It is tough to have talks about these situations, but it is better to have them now than kick the can down the road and wait until a crisis develops when choices are limited and options are expensive. A family usually ends up in my office when a crisis blows out of proportion and it is too late to take evasive action.

One key thing that families can do to avoid a crisis blowing up is to develop a game plan for long-term planning and have it written down well in advance. Generally, the greatest fear people have is the loss of independent living. But developing a plan can preserve your parents’ independence since there are structures and contingency plans in place, should life happen. Tools such as long-term care insurance can buy parents options to stay in their home and get live-in assistance, if needed, or allow a parent to move in with a relative and not drain the resources of family members. Advance healthcare directives let families know well in advance how to handle the medical care of their loved one.

If your parents have not created an estate plan or reviewed their options for long-term planning, I encourage you to encourage them to do so—while there is still time.