For many adult children, just the idea of sitting down to talk with an aging parent about moving to a senior living community is anxiety provoking. It can be one of the most difficult conversations a family will ever have. Delaying the discussion, however, can cause loved ones to be unprepared when a crisis occurs. Family members then find themselves searching for a care solution for their senior during an already stressful time.
If this is a conversation you’ve been putting off having with your parents or grandparents, we have a few tips that will help you get started.
Tips for Starting the Senior Living Conversation with a Loved One
Explore options and meet local experts first: The first step is to educate yourself on the options to help boost your confidence when you have this tough, but important discussion. While most care providers have websites which offer families a chance to self-educate, many people still find themselves with a long list of questions and uncertainties. That’s why it’s a good idea to create a list of senior living communities and home care providers in your desired location. Then schedule visits with each one to determine if they seem like a good fit for your family member. This process can help narrow down your list of options and come up with a few potential care solutions to discuss with your parents.
Create written talking points: Once you better understand what options are available, the next step is to begin outlining what you want to say to your loved one before you begin this conversation. Some adult children have found it helpful to develop a bullet-point script of what they want to cover with their parents, while others have chosen to write a letter to their aging loved one. These aren’t documents you will give to your parents, rather they serve as a method for clarifying which information you want to share and how to best convey it. For example, if your mom recently had a fall, you may want to bring up the need for her to be in a safe environment staffed by healthcare professionals and care givers.
Set realistic expectations: Before you initiate this conversation, it’s important to understand that minds aren’t changed, and details aren’t worked out in just one discussion. In most cases, this will be one of many talks you and your senior family member will have. It’s a process that often takes time, especially if your loved one is resistant to making a change. Getting them to accept a reality that is different than what they envision for themselves won’t happen overnight.
Block out time: Unless you or the senior’s doctor believe they are in immediate danger, plan this conversation for a time and place where you can sit down face-to-face without being rushed or interrupted. Your older family members will likely need time to absorb what you are saying and reflect on how they feel about it.
Share specific examples: If you are recommending this move based on concerns about your aging loved one’s safety or health, have a list of specifics you can share with them. Be sure to present them with kindness and empathy. It is important that your family members understand why you are concerned, but in a manner that won’t leave them feeling as if they are under attack. Remember, if you put them on the defensive early in the conversation, it is unlikely that you will get them to listen to anything else you have to say for a very long time.
Listen carefully: It is also important that once you share your concerns, you take time to listen to theirs. Don’t just sit quietly while they talk, really hear what they have to say. Understanding their worries and concerns makes it more likely that you can work together to find a resolution. Sometimes older adults have outdated ideas about independent or assisted living communities. By helping them better understand the benefits, you might be successful in moving the discussion forward.
Express empathy: Our last piece of advice is to put yourself in the senior’s shoes. Think about how you would feel if someone you love was telling you it’s time to give up the place you’ve called home for many years and move to a senior community. Really think about it. Then keep those feelings in mind as you talk with an aging parent or senior family member. This insight may help you see things from their perspective.
Contact Sunrise Senior Living to Learn More
We hope this information helps make it a little easier to tackle this important but often challenging conversation. For more information and guidance on senior living options, we encourage you to call the Sunrise community nearest you. One of our experienced team members will be happy to answer your questions and help you figure out the best approach to talking with your loved one.