My family and I live about 30 miles from my parents’ home in central Michigan. We try to visit and help with errands and household tasks every weekend. It’s not easy, especially in winter.
My mom gave up driving years ago. Over the past six months or so, my dad’s health has declined significantly. While he still drives to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store, I don’t think he should.
Now that the weather is warmer, I’d like to talk with them about moving to an assisted living community. We’ve never discussed the issue before and I’m nervous about doing so. However, I am worried something bad will happen to them if I don’t.
Do you have any suggestions for starting a conversation when parents need more help than adult children can provide?
Grace in Saginaw, MI
Starting a Conversation about Assisted Living
Beginning a conversation about moving with a senior can be daunting. Adult children may hesitate for fear of upsetting or insulting a loved one. The very idea of the difficult emotions that may arise could cause an adult child to delay the discussion.
In some cases, families wait too long. They could be forced to find a solution in the midst of a crisis. But it sounds as if you already understand the best time to begin talking to a parent about moving to assisted living.
I do have a few tips to help you prepare for and initiate the conversation about assisted living:
- Do your research.
Before you tackle a conversation about assisted living with your parent, do your homework. Make sure you understand what assisted living is and isn’t. Many senior living communities have great resources on their websites to help you learn more.
Research online, call a few that seem like good fits, and even visit some in person. Become familiar with the services and amenities of assisted living and why you think it’s a good solution. It will give you more confidence to start the discussion.
- Prepare to talk more than once.
Moving to an assisted living community is a big decision. While it can be the start of an exciting new chapter for your parents, agreeing to such a big change is intimidating.
When you begin this discussion with your parents, know it will not be a one-time talk. While your parents might realize a change is needed and agree to a quick move, that isn’t usually the case. Start slowly and give your parents time to adjust. They might not immediately see the benefits of giving up their home and moving to an assisted living community.
- Show empathy.
Try to look at the situation from your parents’ perspective. How you would feel if you were asked to give up your home and move to a new environment? Kind words and empathy can make a big difference.
Also keep in mind many seniors believe myths about senior housing, such as residents losing their independence and having a lot of rules to follow. Concerns like these may make them resistant to even considering a move.
When you are worried about your senior loved ones’ well-being, it’s easy to let your fears keep you from listening to theirs. Instead, try to get to the bottom of what might be holding them back.
They may be concerned about issues you aren’t aware of, including:
- Loss of privacy and being forced to adapt to a rigid daily schedule
- Fear about the expense of assisted living
- Concerns that family and friends will forget about them
By keeping these things in mind, you will likely make the conversation go more smoothly.