The Conversation: How to Talk to Parents about Care

Megan Ray  |  August 5, 2011

Son and mother readingWhen it comes to planning care for an older family member, a lot of Americans drag their feet instead of taking a proactive approach. That can often be an unwise strategy. If seniors suffer from an unexpected medical condition and are unable to make decisions about their finances, housing options and other assets, the burden ends up falling on caregivers.

There comes a time when adult children need to "bite the bullet" and start a conversation about future care with elderly parents or family members, and the sooner this can happen, the better. The issue becomes pressing when it seems that older adults begin showing the need for daily help in doing certain tasks or could simply benefit from a different living space tailored towards seniors.

Whatever the case, it is most important to identify specifically what the senior’s needs are so that you can educate yourself on the various options to meet those needs. While there are many different styles of living available to seniors that will offer them both comfort and safety, it is critical to determine what level of care your mom or dad needs.

Try touring various assisted living facilities, independent living communities and other options. Get a feel for what each one can provide and pick one that seems ideal for your loved one's needs.

In order to introduce the subject to your mom or dad, It may be helpful to print a picture of the place, along with a description that details its amenities, services and social life. If the facility is close to a golf course, the beach or some other unique locale that may interest your parent, be sure to point that out.

Prepared with your research, there are a few ways to start the conversation. Some recommend an indirect approach. You could mention a newspaper article or a friend who is concerned about an elderly parent and segue from there, asking what your loved one would prefer in a similar situation. You could also choose to be direct about the subject, but be sure to stay logical, calm and positive. Mention the benefits of moving and talk about the reasons that it would be a better choice.

Sometimes seniors have difficulty navigating older homes or they may fall regularly. If a loved one doesn't spend time with friends very often or is unable to drive, point out that many communities offer opportunities for getting involved in activities and clubs while living in a comfortable and safe environment.

It's natural for seniors to be a little hesitant about the idea at first, but if you manage to come together as a family and voice your concerns for their safety, it may be easier to reach an understanding.