If the Older Adult Can't Take Part in Family Discussions



Asking older adults about their plans and priorities early helps families understand and honor their wishes.


Sometimes, older adults aren't able to fully participate in family discussions, due to dementia or other health issues. Often, these older adults can share their opinions, choose between options or make decisions about their daily life.


Older adults tend to be happier if they are included in family discussions and decisions at some level. For older adults living with dementia, it can help to keep discussions short, take breaks and focus on one question or topic at a time.


During discussions, family members can consider the older adult's:

  • Values and preferences, such as connecting with others, enjoying favorite activities or following religious, spiritual or cultural practices

  • Personality, whether it's adventurous or cautious, outgoing or reserved

  • Relationships, including with family, friends, neighbors and community groups

  • Physical and emotional condition, including how stable it is and likely changes

  • Finances and other resources, including how the older adult managed finances

  • Past decisions, including who the older adult asked for advice and whether independence, cost, quality, convenience or something else was more important


Talk to and try to include the older adult's official decision-makers in family discussions, such as:

  • Healthcare power of attorney or proxy

  • Power of attorney for finances

  • Court-appointed guardian or conservator

  • VA fiduciary or representative payee


These decision-makers should be familiar with the older adult's preferences and health, financial or legal situation.


Official documents can also provide guidance. For example, an advance directive or living will describes the older adult's feelings about certain medical procedures.