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How to Talk to Parents About Assisted Living

Sometimes it becomes clear to adult children that an aging parent needs assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing and dressing. Other times, neighbors, cousins, nieces, nephews, and other caring individuals may notice that an elderly individual in their lives is struggling and may not know just how to help or broach the subject of seeking professional help. Even when seeking elder care services is clearly the safest answer—and one that improves quality of life for everyone involved—that first conversation about the topic can always be difficult.

The idea of moving to senior living can bring fears of mortality, worries over the loss of independence, and other emotional weights. Consequently, adult children and other loved ones often delay these difficult conversations for far too long, until the need for assisted living or memory care becomes a potential health crisis. Instead, it’s better to be proactive and tackle the issue in a reasonable time and place. You’ll be happy you did. To help your mom and dad (or another beloved aging person in your life) make informed decisions about their senior housing options, you need to know how to talk to parents about assisted living the right way.

Is It Really Time for Assisted Living? 5 Signs It’s Time

If one or both of your elderly parents or other loved ones start showing the following signs, they would probably benefit from an assisted living community, where they can get the level of care they need.

  1. Difficulty walking or fear of falling. Limited mobility can hamper their activities and social engagements. Moving into a community specially designed to accommodate these needs can give everyone peace of mind.
  2. Changes in their appearance. Seniors won’t always admit when they’re struggling with dressing, grooming, and personal hygiene. An in-person visit can help you determine just how well (or not) your elderly parents are. Look for poor grooming habits, untidy living conditions, and noticeable weight loss or weight gain.
  3. Increasing medical needs. In old age, particularly while recovering from a heart attack or managing chronic conditions, problems that used to be minor can easily become larger health issues without medical attention.
  4. Memory loss. A senior struggling with their memory, either due to Alzheimer’s disease or another form of age-related cognitive decline, may forget to eat or to take their medication, get lost, or overlook dangers or problems. Memory loss is no joke; it can quickly make a living situation dangerous.
  5. Growing caregiver costs. Caring for a loved one can increasingly lead to missing work or having less time for children or a spouse, as well as mounting financial and emotional costs. These costs and changes can occur gradually.

Discuss Assisted Living with Your Aging Parents — 10 Tips

You know it’s time to explore senior care options. The hard part is talking to your family members or friends about it.

While you’ve heard about the benefits that senior living communities can offer older adults like your parents, you’re not exactly sure how to talk to them about it. After all, your aging loved ones value their independence in retirement, and they may fear that moving into an assisted living facility would rob them of that autonomy. Having a conversation about an important life transition is difficult, but there are certain methods to make this conversation more productive for everyone involved.

1. Plant the Seed

Begin by planting a seed. Don’t approach your loved ones as though you’ve already decided for them. Mention that there are options out there that could make life easier, safer, and more enjoyable for them.

After an injury or when a parent complains about the difficulty of daily tasks is the perfect time to bring it up, for example. Mention how assisted living could help prevent such injuries in the future or provide extra help to lighten their burdens.

2. Recruit Help

A good approach to bringing up the topic of assisted living with a loved one who may react poorly to the idea? Start with a family meeting. Everyone can be together and get on the same page about their wishes for the parents or grandparents’ safety and well-being. The initial meeting likely won’t result in a fully-formed, perfect plan, but it’s a good place to start.

If you have siblings, for example, talk to them about their opinions on assisted living. Agree about how, when, and where you want to encourage Mom or Dad to take that giant step.

3. Choose a Time and Place for “The Talk”

Reach out to the rest of the family and discuss why you think you should arrange a family meeting. Then plan on the time to have it. Coordinating everyone for the meeting might be the hardest part, so try to find a time and location that works for everyone involved. If someone lives out of town, make sure to include them remotely through a video chat or a conference call.

4. Create an Agenda for the Meeting

There is going to be a lot to cover in the meeting about assisted living, so it can be helpful to have a detailed agenda laid out. You don’t want to forget important items or leave the discussion open for getting sidetracked, after all. Just remember that a single meeting won’t be the end of it, either. Choose three or four topics to be the main focus, and make sure everyone who will be at the meeting has the agenda so they can be prepared.

5. Keep the Tone Positive

A meeting where everyone feels comfortable to share their thoughts will be the most successful. Of course, it is not always that easy. Conversations around the decision to move parents into assisted living can easily sour as emotions run high.

Consider setting certain expectations or boundaries to set a positive tone:

  • Silence or turn off cell phones.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Listen compassionately.
  • Allow everyone time to speak.
  • Avoid using “you” statements, such as “you need this,” “you’re acting this way,” and “you should.” Instead, use “I” statements like “the way I see it,” “I think,” “I feel,” and “I’m worried that…”
  • Focus on solutions, not problems.

6. Always Involve Parents in the Decision-Making Process

Don’t act as if the decision to move to senior living has already been made without your parents’ enthusiastic support. When you feel ready to talk to your parents about assisted living, it’s best to approach the topic gently. Remember that change is intimidating, and taking it slow can help your parents move forward.

To start, ask some questions about how your parents are doing. These questions place the ball in your parents’ court, so to speak. It will also help them open up about any struggles they’re experiencing or if they’re having difficulty with any ADLs, which can make it easier to determine the right level of care they need.

As soon as any issues are out in the open, it’s time to share with them what you’ve learned about assisted living communities. Let them ask questions and voice their concerns. Your parents need to feel heard because moving to an assisted living community is their decision, after all.

7. Keep Track of Each Meeting

Once everyone is present with agendas in hand for the meeting, get started. Encourage your elderly loved ones to go first, sharing what they want for their future, then invite other family members to chime in. Most importantly, take notes.

You want to keep track of key priorities, decisions made, issues that remain unresolved, and next steps to take. Your notes will remind your parents and the rest of the family what the meeting accomplished and what still needs to be addressed. You can even use them in the next meeting so your conversation moves forward in a productive way.

8. Offer Reassurance

Your parents might be afraid that you won’t visit as often once they are living in assisted living. Perhaps they fear the grandchildren won’t be around on a regular basis. Put those fears to rest and give them peace of mind that they will not be forgotten. Reassure them that you will always be a routine part of their lives and visit or call regularly.

9. Manage Expectations

There will always be a spectrum of opinions in a meeting like this one, especially with many people present. So don’t assume you’ll be able to achieve perfect consensus about a subject like assisted living right away. Try not to get stuck when someone disagrees, because change happens slowly; odds are, they will eventually change their mind. Try to gain their support with questions like, “I know you don’t agree on this right now, but are you willing to think it over?” You can also work together to brainstorm alternative solutions that will satisfy more members of the family.

10. Visit the Community

Not knowing what to expect from a significant life transition is one of the main drivers of apprehension. Help your parents understand what their lifestyle could be like at an assisted living community. The best way is by taking a few visits to communities that have caught your interest.

Your parents will get a firsthand look at the community and understand what to expect from the next chapter. They’ll be able to see the level of care they will receive, what their new home will look like, and what activities and amenities they can enjoy.

Choose Long-Term Care with Avista Senior Living

When in-home care is no longer feasible, it could be time to make the move to a senior living community. And when that time comes, Avista will be with your family every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more about your senior living options and for more tips on how to talk to parents about assisted living.

Disclaimers: This article is for informational purposes only. It cannot be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. It is not professional advice. Please direct all healthcare concerns to a licensed healthcare provider or social worker.

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