It’s never easy to talk to your parents about moving, and it certainly doesn’t get easier when it’s a matter of deciding when to move them into senior care. There are many options out there, from independent living facilities with varying personal support levels to full-service care facilities designed to manage your loved ones’ needs and ongoing health concerns.
No matter which option you’re considering, the conversation still involves a delicate balance of emotional and material concerns, as well as considerations about how to air them while hearing out the concerns your parents bring to the situation. So how do you get started with a conversation about assisted living?
Take Stock of Your Concerns
Before sitting a loved one down for any delicate conversation, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself by reviewing the situation. Document your concerns and the concrete ways that a move into a senior living facility would help alleviate those concerns. Most of the time, the core motivating factor is a concern for a parent’s safety. It’s often not linked to a single chronic illness or health issue but motivated by worries about falls or household management. If that is the case, it will be important to discuss how access to help is improved and how they can maintain independence depending on their need for assisted care. This gives you a better idea about the trajectory of the conversation and the options you can present.
Do Your Research
Finding the right assisted living community requires some research and attention to detail. Full-time care facilities tend to have a higher baseline of assistance than independent living communities, but many senior living communities offer both options. It’s also important you understand the safety features, costs, and other amenities of the facility. This is often best approached with a combination of inquiries:
- Independent research into locations near your home, including reviews
- Referrals from family physicians who are familiar with your loved one’s health
- Word of mouth from friends and relatives
Once you have a good idea of your options, it’s time to have a conversation. Make sure you’re ready to listen as much as you talk.
Opening the Issue
Most of the time, conversations about a move to assisted living are not a single discussion. They’re an ongoing discussion across a few different visits. The first time you talk it out, don’t be surprised if there is a lot of resistance or even complete refusal. Parents often have concerns about losing independence, including the potential loss of their financial independence. If you can anticipate these concerns and come ready to address them, it’s easier to show you are looking to work with them to find the right living option. As you explain your concerns and present the ways each senior living community meets them, be sure to emphasize your concern for their safety, as well as your support for their lifestyle needs.
Bring in Backup
If you’re facing much resistance after a couple of rounds of conversation and you feel like you’ve said everything you had prepared, it’s a good idea to bring in an objective opinion. One of the best ways to do this is by involving your family physician. A doctor your parent knows, and trusts can explain the health considerations behind this decision. The balance of objectivity that comes with a professional opinion and confidence from working with someone they know and trust to explain the situation often helps more than anything else.
During each round of discussion, pay attention to the concerns being aired to learn what’s motivating resistance to the move. Then come back with information on how to address the issue. If it’s personal space, seek out facilities with more spacious apartment-like housing or even bungalow-style freestanding units. If it’s control, look for ways to help them feel like they’re in charge of the decision and capable of initiating change themselves if they need to adjust support levels. Most importantly, find a way to show you’re looking out for them and are trying to find the best living option.
Discuss the Big Picture
Finally, it’s vital that you be willing to discuss this decision’s broader impact across the family. By allowing professionals to help with the day to day needs of senior family members, you allow yourself the space to focus on the needs of other parts of your family. Often, this makes it easier to be present when your own children need you there while having the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your parents are safe and not alone. That can help improve family members’ emotional dynamics and reduce general stress levels across the households in your extended family, too.
In the end, this is not an easy conversation to have, but it gets more comfortable when you approach it with patience. Just be willing to step back and find another approach as needed. The rest will eventually work itself out.