Dear Donna:

My 91-year old father lives just outside Holland, Michigan. He lives alone in a home he and my mother bought when they were first married. Since her death three years ago, his health has really declined. In the last six months, he has fallen four times. My family and I leave in Kalamazoo so it isn’t easy to get to him quickly. He has had to use his medical alert pendant to call for help each time. His house is old and not very senior-friendly. Despite the home improvements we’ve tried to make to keep him safe, he just isn’t. I’ve tried to convince him that moving to assisted living would help him and me, but he is very stubborn. He thinks he will have to give up his privacy and that he will be forced to play games. I am worn out and stressed out from trying to juggle my family’s needs and his while also working full-time. Do you have any advice?

Alice in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Dear Alice:

We hear stories similar to yours almost every day. Giving up the home he has lived in for decades is surely hard for your father. Doubly so given the memories he no doubt has of your mother there. It obviously doesn’t help that he has some big misconceptions about what a Michigan assisted living community is really like for residents.

One suggestion might be to try to get him to consider a trial assisted living stay, officially known as respite. Some families have found that telling an aging loved one they will be out-of-state for an event makes it easier to convince their senior loved one to agree to a respite stay. It can be a non-threatening way to try assisted living. Your father may be willing to try this if you tell him, for example, you will take him on Thursday and pick him up the following Wednesday. By giving him a definite date to return home, he may not feel abandoned or at risk of being “forced” to stay.

Once he agrees you can work closely with the staff at the assisted living community to make sure the experience is a positive one. You can plan his trial stay around events or activities at the assisted living community that may be of special interest to him, match him up with other residents that he has things in common with, and help him review dining options and menu items ahead of time. While respite suites are usually furnished, you might want to bring just a few family photos and treasures to make him feel more at home. Not too many though. You don’t want him to be suspicious! Once he sees how much easier life can be in an assisted living community and that he won’t be forced to join in any activities he isn’t interested in, you might find him to be more open to the idea of moving. It might take him a few respite stays to be convinced, but it will be worth it knowing he is safe.

I hope this idea works for you, Alice! Please contact us if you need help setting up a respite stay for your Dad.


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