Having Important Conversations
Sometimes it becomes clear to an adult child that his or her parents need to make a move to an assisted living facility. This may be because of a chronic health condition that is currently in decline, repeated falls, a recent close call, a lack of proximity or availability of family members, or increasing difficulty with managing everyday activities such as taking medications on time, staying well groomed, eating regularly, or handling chores.
However, children often hesitate to raise the topic of assisted living with the parents they love. The idea of assisted living can bring with it fears of mortality, worries over loss of independence, and other emotional weights. Consequently, adult children will often delay these important conversations for too long, until the need for assisted living becomes pressing. Don’t let that happen to you. Be proactive about talking to your parents, and tackle the issue in a reasonable time and place.
Here are six useful tips that will help you to talk to parents about assisted living:
1- Keep the discussion going
Begin by planting the seeds, perhaps in a situation such as after an injury or when a parent is complaining about the difficulty of accomplishing everything he or she would like to accomplish. Mention how assisted living could help to prevent such injuries in the future or how it can provide extra help that will lighten your parent’s burden.
2- Recruit your siblings to help
If you have brothers or sisters, first talk to them about their opinions on assisted living. Come to an agreement about how, when, and where you want to encourage Mom or Dad to take that immense step. You can talk to your parents individually, and then, as the need becomes more pressing, consider a group meeting. Perhaps you can combine the conversation with an enjoyable family dinner.
3- Take your parents around town to tour local assisted living facilities
Many modern facilities are more like retirement communities than nursing homes and you can relieve some of Mom or Dad’s fears by showing them the kind of environment and activities that are available at such places. You can relieve some of Mom or Dad’s fears by showing them the kind of environment and activities that are available at such places. From musical presentations and poker nights to bingo and dancing, these facilities can offer seniors a host of social interactions.
4- Get the family doctor involved
If your parent’s doctor is able to speak with your without violating privacy concerns, plan to meet with him or her. Find out how much care your doctor thinks your parent actually needs. If the doctor agrees that assisted living could be useful, see if he or she will broach the topic with your parent.
5- Don’t act as if the decision has been made
Approach your parent with the possibility of assisted living, but be sure to present other options as well, such as an in-home nursing, an elder’s helper to do housekeeping and prepare meals, or an emergency alarm. Discuss the pros and cons of each possibility.
6- Be cautious in your phrasing
Words such as “community” and “retirement-style living” may be more appealing to your parents than the term “assisted living” and will certainly sound better than “nursing home.” Try to be calm and pleasant in your tone, and avoid condescension. Remember that your parents are your parents.
Find out what they will miss about home, and offer reassurance
Maybe your parents are afraid you won’t visit as often once they are “shuffled away” to an assisted living facility. Maybe they fear the grandchildren won’t be around on as regular a basis. Reassure them that you will continue to be a routine part of their lives, even when there are professionals around to help. Perhaps they fear having to rid themselves of their favorite possessions. Let them know that they can bring favorite plants with them, or that you will find a good, loving home for a beloved pet. Let them know that they can bring favorite plants and other items and that there are people who know the community and can help them make the decisions about what they can bring. It can be hard to let go; let your parents know that they don’t have to let go entirely.
Parents may be concerned that assisted living is too expensive and that it will quickly exhaust their resources. Consulting with a Senior Living Placement Specialist enables you and your parents to get a complete understanding of the costs and the services that are available at the communities that are under consideration. Review with them everything that is included in the assisted living package that they may currently pay for separately, from utilities and meals to entertainment and maid service.
While a conversation about assisted living will never be easy, with these eight tips, you can broach the topic with some confidence.