Unpleasant But Necessary Holiday Conversations

Make an effort to talk with your aging relatives about their end-of-life wishes.

Family and neighbors gather together in senior woman's home to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.
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[Read: Best Places to Retire for Longevity.]

Should you still be driving? Older people with health or vision restrictions may no longer be able to drive. Consider whether your area has convenient public transportation options, affordable senior van or taxi services or if there are nearby friends and relatives willing to help on a regular basis. "Start to use alternatives before you start relying on them to make sure you are familiar with and know how to use them," says Elin Schold Davis, an occupational therapist who coordinates the American Occupational Therapy Association's older driver safety initiative. "If people would start taking the bus or other transportation options in their area, they would have options during that time if they need to stop driving."

Many people put off having a conversation with older relatives about end-of-life issues because it's uncomfortable to bring it up. However, the majority of people age 55 and older (63 percent) say they would welcome the conversation and would be relieved to discuss it, and another 31 percent report they would be willing to take on this difficult topic. Only 7 percent of the oldest survey respondents say end-of-life issues are too upsetting to discuss.

"For many families, they only come together around the holidays. There may have been a lag time since they saw mom or dad, and they might see that mom or dad is slipping," Markwood says. "Probably one of the greatest gifts that you can give a family is to pull this information together to make sure that you can meet the needs of mom and dad and do so in a respectful way."