Even those who have communicative and open relationships with their parents can find it hard to start conversations about their parent’s ability to take care of themselves. You and your parent may both know they would benefit from moving into assisted living, but the thought is often so full of emotion and stress, it can be a difficult conversation to start.
Learn more about how to have an assisted living conversation with your parents, using these five conversation starters.
5 Tips for Having an Assisted Living Conversation With Your Parents
Even if your parent isn’t ready to admit that their needs are changing, it is possible to have a natural, organic conversation about their future. While it’s not usually an easy discussion, it is more likely to turn out well when you approach the conversation from a place of love and support.
Here are five ways to start a natural conversation about assisted living with your parent:
1. Begin early.
Many people delay important conversations about aging with their parent because they fear the assisted living conversation will be difficult, or that their parent will be offended. You don’t want to make your parent feel like a burden or that they have no choice, but delaying a conversation until it’s an emergency will make those feelings more pronounced, not less.
Instead, start having conversations about your parent’s needs early on, well before their circumstances make a move necessary. It’s also important to start these conversations early with other family members too. Ensuring everyone is on the same page from the start will allow you to move forward as a family that’s united, which will make the move easier for your parent.
Conversations about aging are healthy for the whole family to have, even if it will be many years before you anticipate your parent will need to consider moving into an assisted living community.
2. Bring research.
It’s easier to start your conversation with specific facts about assisted living, rather than comments about your parent’s health. Research the different kinds of communities, those available in your area, their amenities and costs. Ask your parent what they think and which aspects of assisted living are most important to them.
Remember that you can always ask family members and friends for recommendations to add to the conversation and to get guidance about what might be best for your parent.
Specifics help make the conversation feel natural. Ideally, you’ll have begun talking about assisted living early on, so you don’t need to settle anything immediately. Allow conversations to end naturally and then discuss them again later.
3. Choose less emotional times.
One natural opening to talk about assisted living is when one of your parent’s friends moves into a community. It may be a good opening, depending on how your parent feels. If your parent is emotional or stressed about their friend’s changing needs (or their own), then it’s not the best time. For the same reason, it’s also not ideal to bring a move to assisted living up after a death, illness or injury.
Sometimes, well-meaning adult children bring up assisted living when their parent is frustrated. Perhaps they’ve forgotten their medication, left the stove on or slipped on their stairs. This isn’t necessarily the best time to probe your parent about a solution to their struggles. Instead of feeling supported, they may feel you’re adding to their burdens.
You know your parent best, so use your sound judgment to identify when they’re feeling up to the conversation.
4. Have a conversation, not a lecture.
Another way to start the conversation is to begin with your own concerns.
If your parent is struggling with yard work, for instance, start the conversation by mentioning how you’re struggling to keep up with your landscaping as well. This way, you’re empathizing with your parent’s struggles, rather than lecturing them or reprimanding.
Having a conversation that’s two-sided will hopefully encourage your parent to open up to you about how they’re feeling.
5. Write details down.
If an emergency strikes, or if your parent becomes unable to make their own decisions, you’ll find it hard to remember the details of all the conversations you’ve had and the wishes they’ve expressed. While having final wishes written down is extremely important, it’s also critical to keep track of smaller, details that will affect your parent’s quality of life in an assisted living community.
Write down details like desired amenities, location and suite type. Plus, be sure to update your notes as your parent changes their mind or their circumstances and health needs change.
No matter how you start these conversations, having them frequently will help make it feel more natural.
Remember that empathetic, small and specific conversations will ease your mind as well as your parent’s and that while you’re becoming more responsible for your parent, you shouldn’t rush a leadership role.
How did you start the assisted living conversation with your parents or senior loved ones? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.