Dear Donna:

I’m heading home over Christmas to visit my mom in Traverse City, Michigan. When I was there this summer, I decided it’s time to talk with her about moving to an assisted living community.

While I’m hoping she is receptive to the idea, just the thought of bringing it up with her gives me anxiety. Mom still lives in the house she and my dad bought shortly after they were married. I know the emotional attachment she has to it.

Do you have any suggestions for how to initiate this discussion?



Dear Stacey:

Your apprehension isn’t uncommon. We often hear from adult children who say they dreaded starting “the talk” so much they kept putting it off. Then a crisis occurred, and they were scrambling to research and visit senior care options. It’s an unfortunate situation as you are less likely to make an informed choice in the middle of a crisis.

The best time to explore assisted living communities is before a loved one needs to move. Not only will the transition be smoother, but they will also find their quality of life improves. From nutrition to life enrichment activities, assisted living has much to offer. I have some tips that will help you feel more confident beginning the conversation with your mom.

4 Tips for Talking to a Senior about Assisted Living

  1. Research your options.

Before you initiate this conversation, spend some time online learning more about the different types of senior living. With enough background information, you may be able to answer your mom’s basic questions. This includes pricing, as it’s usually one of the first concerns seniors express about assisted living. Once you have a few communities that seem like good choices for your mom, call each one for more details.

COVID-19 protocols may limit the number of visitors some assisted living communities are allowing. Fortunately, most offer virtual tours which give you a better understanding of the community. That should provide you with enough information to discuss the community with your mom.

  1. Show empathy.

It’s tough to really understand how difficult giving up the family home can be for your mom, but it does help if you try to put yourself in her shoes. Be kind and empathetic, even if the conversation isn’t going as smoothly as you’d hoped. Even if your mom is fearful of living alone, the very idea of making a change can be difficult.

Another issue to keep in mind is that many seniors believe myths about assisted living communities. These misperceptions may make them fearful of moving. A few additional concerns seniors say prevent them from considering assisted living include:

  • Being forced to participate in activities
  • Losing their privacy and independence
  • Running out of money and having to move again
  • Worrying that family and friends won’t visit often

Take time to listen to your mother’s concerns and give reassurance.

  1. Be patient and listen.

Before you start the discussion, understand and accept that it’s rare for an older adult to agree to move during the first conversation. A decision is usually made after a series of talks and visits to assisted living communities. By being patient and actively listening, you will be better able to identify and address your mom’s concerns.

An easy, non-threatening way to begin the talk is by asking your mom how she feels about living alone. Is she afraid at night? Is she struggling to manage necessary household responsibilities? Does she feel lonely? Also, ask if any of her friends have moved to assisted living. This will allow you to gauge her feelings about the issue and ease into the conversation.

  1. Watch your body language.

It’s easy to become frustrated when you are worried about a senior loved one’s health and safety. Being mindful of your body language can also help this talk go a little smoother.

If your mom doesn’t immediately agree to a move, it’s important not to get mad or be heavy handed in trying to convince her. While you may not verbalize your impatience, your tone and body language can give you away. Crossing your arms, using a sharp tone of voice, and avoiding eye contact are a few behaviors to be aware of if things don’t go like you hope.

Assisted Living at Heritage Senior Communities

I hope these suggestions help you and your mom work together to find a solution. Depending upon where your search for assisted living takes you, I’d also like to extend an open invitation to consider Heritage Senior Communities. With locations throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, you’ll likely find an assisted living community your mom will be happy to call home!

Kind regards,