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I talk a lot about the importance of planning for the future of your aging parents. About steeling yourself for an uncomfortable conversation that you may not want to have – or that they may not want to have.

I give tips on how to have these difficult conversations and hopefully provide enough motivation that the people who listen to what I am saying, or read what I am writing, are inspired to take some action on this important – and inevitable – set of circumstances.


I also spend a fair amount of time outlining the different topics that should be discussed: financial, health, driving, end-of-life decisions, and desired legacy to name a few.

In a recent article I even talked about what should you do if your parents just absolutely refuse to make any plans at all.  (Read the article here.)

But what about if you make all the effort, and outline all the plans…..and then they don’t work?

What happens if dementia sets in and ruins it all because the mom who agreed to the plan is not really the same person now? Or if the finances just aren’t what the family had hoped they would be and the care needed is too expensive?

Things happen every day that ruin the plans that we’ve created. It rains on the day of the big outdoor wedding, kids get sick on the day you’re supposed to head out on a long anticipated vacation, the marketing plan you’ve been developing for months at work doesn’t produce the results everyone was depending on.

I recently read a quote in a business development book that struck me as very applicable to facing the future of our aging parents:

“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but the planning is indispensible.”

— Dwight D. Eisenhower


The first thing that struck me is that yes, sometimes it all feels like one big battle, but we’ll talk about that in another article.

Often though, it’s not the exact plans that are so important but what you learn in the process of creating them.

One of the true gifts of planning for the future of your aging parents is that the discussions give you insight into what your parents truly want – what means the most to them. Planning helps to clarify the objective. It defines what needs to happen and how it should happen.

That clarification can be one of the most important pieces of the entire planning process because it provides you with the goal you want to achieve.

  • Is the goal to keep mom in her own home for as long as possible?Picture
  • Is the goal to keep expenses to a minimum in the hopes of being able to afford private-pay level care for as long as the family can?
  • Is the goal to keep all family members involved in the care plan and keep the family unit tightly together?

You see the plan might be all well thought out, but it is not what actually accomplishes the goal – it’s really the planning process that gets you there.

It also can help foreshadow the types of obstacles that are bound to come up in the future. The plan won’t tell you what the pitfalls might be – but the planning process will often make them clear as day.

One of the tips I give on how to have difficult conversations is that you need to expect the fact that your efforts will not always work the first time around. The same thing can be said for the plans that you make. They just might not work.

So don’t tie yourself to the exact plan. Because in case it doesn’t all unfold exactly as you had hoped, be confident in knowing that the planning process has taught you the important things that need to happen so that when you hit a challenge you will already have a clear path to follow.

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