Have you noticed that it’s becoming more and more difficult for the seniors in your life to live in their own home? Maybe you’ve witnessed your parents becoming more forgetful and falling behind on their household bills. Or maybe you’re worried that it has become dangerous for them to keep up with household maintenance or yardwork with worsening physical abilities. Perhaps you’re concerned that they are experiencing more social isolation because getting out for events has become too strenuous. There are many reasons why moving to a senior living community may be the next right step for your parents, but how can you tactfully and compassionately broach the topic with them? The conversation can seem daunting, but instead of skirting around the issue, use the tips below to help make the conversation with your parents about senior living options productive and fruitful.
Do Your Homework
Before you even initiate a conversation with your parents about senior living settings, educate yourself on the options that are available. It can help the conversation feel less overwhelming to your parents if you’ve done some of the legwork and can narrow down the choices to a few attractive senior living options for them. As you learn more about the variety of options available, such as life plan communities, independent living retirement communities, assisted living, skilled nursing care, and home care services, you’ll begin to get an idea of the level of care your parents may need and what amenities would appeal to them. Almost every senior living community has an online presence with a website and/or social media accounts where you can easily view photos and videos to get an idea of what the community environment is like. Pay close attention to the physical location of the community also to see if a more urban or country setting would make your parents most comfortable.
The more you learn about the senior living options available, the more credibility you will have in a conversation with your parents about the topic. But remember, unless their safety is at risk, you are not making any decisions for your parents without their consent. Instead, you are gathering information so that you can become a helpful resource for the decisions that will have to be made.
List Your Concerns
If you have concerns for your parents’ health and safety, write them down so you can be prepared to compassionately discuss them. If you are worried that their home has become too much of a burden or are concerned that they might forget an important medication, prepare to explain this to your parents. If your own situation might prevent you from meeting their needs as they age, such as living a far distance away or working a busy full-time schedule, present this concern to them as well. By pointing out your own worries about their situation, you may help your parents see the need for making a move.
Initiate the Conversation
Ideally, you should bring up the topic of senior care before you’re forced to bring it up. If a medical emergency or health crisis forces the topic, the conversation may make an already stressful situation even more difficult. It’s best to start the process of researching and discussing senior living options when your parents are in relatively good health and can be an active part of the decision-making process.
Pick a time to talk when you and your parents won’t feel rushed. After all of the research you’ve done, you may already feel comfortable in making a decision, but remember that your parents might not have thought about the topic in-depth and may need more time to process and make a decision.
It may be helpful to begin the conversation with a question to show that you are trying to understand their current living experience. Asking questions like “How is it living at home alone?,” “Do you feel safe?,” and “Do you worry about how to keep up with your home maintenance?” can help you gain understanding and can encourage your parents to begin reflecting on their current situation. Asking open-ended questions is the best way to initiate conversation and allow your parents the space to share their feelings.
Listen with an Open Mind
Throughout the conversation, listen carefully with empathy to your parents’ concerns and don’t minimize their anxieties. Change is hard for most of us, and the thought of making a move to a new place can produce much fear. To negate the possibility of your parents feeling dishonored or getting defensive, assure them that you are not issuing orders or ultimatums but instead want to help provide them with information and guidance if needed. Everyone wants to be able to choose where they live and what kind of care they receive, so unless your loved one is mentally unable, guarantee them that they will be involved in the decision-making process every step of the way.
Present Positive Options
Listen with empathy and then begin showing them the positive amenities and benefits of the senior living options you have found. Are they tired of snow shoveling and yard work? Mention the maintenance-free living offered at retirement communities and assisted livings. Are they worried about forgetting to take their medications? Show them the help that’s offered from on-site medical teams. Are they missing the social activities they used to enjoy? Point out the many events available and the friendships that can form when living within a community.
If your loved one is willing, offer to tour a senior living community with them. Seeing a community firsthand is the best way to get a feel for all that is offered. Meeting with the staff can help facilitate the difficult conversation about moving and can provide credible information to your parents. Much of the anxiety your parents may feel can be relieved by going on an in-person tour.
Plan to Have an Ongoing Conversation
Most seniors will not be able to come to a decision of this magnitude quickly. Remember that a conversation about moving to senior living care will be a process. You may have to have a series of talks, not a single conversation – and that’s okay.
By beginning the conversation now, you can help your parents get one step closer to finding the perfect senior living community for them. There’s no time like the present to start preparing for the future - and it might just be easier than you think.
Snyder Village in Metamora is a Life Plan Community that offers independent living in its retirement cottages and apartments. Beautiful assisted living accommodations, memory care programs, skilled nursing care, and physical therapy are also available on campus. Its home care services support individuals in Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, and Marshall Counties. For more information, call (309) 367-4300 or visit www.snydervillage.com.