5 Tips for a More Peaceful and Productive Talk About Assisted Living
As people age, it becomes necessary to discuss difficult conversations. Often, a medical emergency triggers the need to start talking about assisted living. But sometimes, the precipitating event is not so dramatic.
A series of little things can also indicate that it’s time to talk about transitioning to assisted living. If you notice a deterioration in living conditions, mail that’s piling up, or a change in your loved one’s mood or personality it may be time to talk.
Sometimes it’s hard to assess these things from afar. Often, aging parents will assure their children that they are “fine.” They don’t want to raise a concern or feel like a burden. It can be difficult to know how well your parents are doing if you don’t see them every day.
It’s never easy to bring up moving into an assisted living facility. The transition to senior care often sparks fears of losing one’s independence and privacy and forces people to contemplate death and end-of-life decision-making.
This is uncomfortable for both parents and children. But you must broach difficult topics, from finances and estate plans to medical directives and senior care. These five strategies can help make talking about assisted living a little easier and, hopefully, a little more productive.
1. Start Early
The best time to start planning for and talking about assisted living is long before you need it. The second best time is now.
Pre-planning helps you control the situation. It allows you to consider issues before you are pressured to make a decision. It’s much easier to discuss options when you aren’t faced with the conflicting emotions of a looming crisis.
Talk To Your Siblings
If you have siblings, it’s important to speak to them first. You want to be sure you are all on the same page about how best to care for your aging parents. Don’t assume you all agree on what’s best. It might take several conversations to get everyone to agree.
Once you come to a consensus, decide who is going to bring it up with mom and dad. You don’t want your parents to feel as though they are being ambushed, so one-on-one conversations are best.
Use Organic Opportunities
Try to find a natural way to bring up the idea of assisted living. Often, the organic opportunity is a parent’s health crisis, even a minor one. But you don’t need to wait for that to happen.
You could use the experience of a friend or family member to get the conversation rolling. Or an advertisement for a senior-care facility. You can even plant this “organic” opportunity by recounting a “conversation” you had with someone else to start talking about assisted living.
Explain why you have been thinking about the need for senior care. Make sure your parents know you have their best interests at heart. Explain that you worry about them being on their own.
2. Listen to Your Loved One’s Concerns
During these initial conversations, the most important thing you can do is listen. Your parent is likely going to have many concerns. They will worry about giving up their independence. Many seniors view the transition to senior care as the end of personal autonomy, fun, and freedom.
Don’t try to minimize their feelings or force false positivity on them. There will be time to showcase the many benefits of moving to assisted living, but this isn’t that time.
Invite your parents to share their worries and concerns. For many seniors, financial considerations play a big part in their apprehension. Do your parents have long-term care insurance? Is there a financial plan in place? Financial matters are personal. Asking detailed questions about your parent’s finances may cause friction.
Don’t issue orders or ultimatums. Unless your parent is ruled mentally incapacitated by a court, they have the final say where they live. You can make recommendations and voice concerns, but your parent remains in control. Make sure they know you will respect their decision. Maintaining a sense of agency is important for mental and physical health.
3. Explore different options
Do your homework before you broach this discussion. Investigate different options for senior care. These range from in-home options, like home health aides, meals on wheels, and transportation assistance, to senior daycare facilities, and residential care.
You should also research assisted living facilities and be prepared to show your loved one a few different options. Have brochures or websites available, but don’t force them on your parent.
Take Baby Steps
Be prepared to take baby steps. Recognize that each concession your parents make compromises their independence. Be prepared to start small.
Instead of asking Mom to give up her drivers’ license right away, start by getting her to agree to only drive in town or not drive at night.
Instead of asking Dad to move to assisted living, see if he will agree to hire a helper who organizes his medication and cooks his meals.
Caring for aging parents is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can always start with simple options and increase the level of care over time.
4. Visit facilities
Once your parent expresses a willingness to consider assisted living, be prepared to show them some materials. Seeing photos of happy seniors engaged in activities and having fun may help make the prospect of moving less intimidating.
Arrange tours at different facilities. Sugarbush Living is proud to offer tours of our homes. Click here to schedule a tour.
Pay attention to the details when touring facilities. You can find more information about what to look for when choosing an assisted living provider here.
Often, seeing comfortable living quarters, dining rooms, and common areas can help ease anxieties. Encourage your loved one to ask questions and raise concerns. Seek feedback on the facilities you visit. Your loved one needs to remain in charge of their destiny. Let them know they have control over where they will live.
5. Be patient
Talking about assisted living is not a one-time conversation. Your first attempt at this discussion probably won’t go well. Try not to get discouraged.
Think about it from your loved one’s perspective. Contemplating getting older and losing your independence is a scary thought. Be patient and give your loved one the time they need to become comfortable with this new idea.
Stay positive, and recognize that each attempt is a step in the right direction.
Bringing It All Together
These conversations are not comfortable for parent or child. So people put them off for as long as possible. Don’t make it more difficult – the sooner you start the better.
You can find additional resources to help you make these tough decisions at AARP, Assisted Living Federation of America, American Seniors Housing Association, or the National Council on Aging, or contact us today to discuss how Sugarbush Living can assist in making your parent comfortable with the transition.