Having the Conversation
Having the Conversation: How to Talk to Your Parent About Assisted Living
Is your elderly parent struggling to live on their own? You’re concerned that their house has fallen into disrepair, and their prized garden is overgrown. You aren’t sure if their bills are being paid on time or possibly, even paid at all. You are worried that their diet consists of crackers and cheese because their cupboards are bare. You know your parent had a bad fall already, or you think it’s a matter of time. When you were growing up, your parent knew all the neighbors. But now, no one is familiar in the neighborhood. Without being able to drive, you know your parent feels isolated.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Any one of these is a clear sign that your loved one needs assistance. Moving your parent into an assisted living or memory care community is the solution when they can no longer live alone. It’s not always easy, but it may be necessary for their health and safety.
If your parent is resistant to change, how do you persuade them that a move is in their best interest?
The first step is to sit down with your parent or loved one and start the conversation.
Before the Conversation
Research Your Options
Researching a long-term senior care community for your parent may be a new concept for you and your family. Where do you start? Search for communities online in your area and get recommendations from family members and friends who’ve been in a similar situation.
The best way to get a feel for a community is to meet with the staff in person. See firsthand how the community feels and meet the residents. Are the residents engaged in activities? Are the residents happy? How does the staff interact with the residents?
Understand the care services available, the associated costs, and the personality of each location by asking a lot of questions. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be making the important decision of who will care for your aging parent.
What Does Your Parent Need Help With?
Beyond your loved one’s physical needs, some factors can dramatically affect their quality of life. You want your parent to be safe and healthy, but also happy and thriving. When you are looking at the big picture of moving your parent into a senior living community, understanding your priorities will help determine your best choice.
- Personal Care. Your parent may find it challenging to perform personal tasks, or what is referred to as the activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs include dressing, showering, toileting, grooming, and transferring, like moving from a bed to a wheelchair. These daily tasks are often taken for granted but can become monumental efforts with age, frailty, and mobility issues. Your parent may feel embarrassed or vulnerable when needing this kind of care. Assisted living communities train their staff to handle these tasks with sensitivity, dignity, and compassion.
- Healthcare. With an increase in ailments, pain, fatigue, and illnesses that can happen with age, your parent may be juggling bottles of medications and a calendar filled with medical appointments. The care staff at an assisted living community helps with taking prescriptions correctly, watching for dangerous drug interactions, accompanying residents to doctor’s appointments, and monitoring any changes in health. If your parent’s physical or mental condition changes while living in a community, the care staff can quickly step in and get your parent the necessary help.
- Loneliness. Seniors living alone can feel very isolated. Close friends, family members, or a spouse may have passed away, decreasing their social circle. Many seniors stop driving at some point. And family members lead busy lives, which makes it a challenge to visit often. An assisted living or memory care community offers opportunities to engage with new neighbors, friends, and care staff throughout the day.
- Nutrition. Is your parent eating a balanced diet? Is your dad watching his sodium? Is your mom eating fresh fruits and vegetables? Cooking for one can be depressing or difficult, so many seniors opt for readymade microwave dinners. Your parent’s nutrition may suffer when limitations, such as being physically able to lift groceries out of a car, can influence grocery shopping decisions. If your parent is taking easy, meal-making shortcuts or skipping meals altogether, an assisted living community can provide them chef-prepared meals that are not only delicious but packed with nutrition.
- Accessibility. As your parent gets older, small tasks may be more difficult. House maintenance can quickly become unmanageable and remodeling a home to meet changing needs may be unrealistic. Even if the expense of a remodel is not an issue, some homes cannot accommodate these necessary changes like wider hallways for a wheelchair or a walk-in shower. Assisted living and memory care communities are thoughtfully built for the safety and ease of elderly residents.
Know Your Talking Points
To move into an assisted living or memory care community comes with many benefits for your parent’s lifestyle and health. Residents can live as independently as possible with support and care.
- Not an "old folks' home." Many parents and elderly loved ones have outdated opinions about assisted living. The industry has evolved dramatically over the last few decades. Your parent may not be fully aware of the options that are available to enhance their quality of life.
- New friends. Communities center around social interaction with communal dining, engaging group activities, and plenty of open space to chat with neighbors and make new friends.
- Distinctive amenities. The variety of amenities offered in different communities will vary. From movie theaters to demonstration kitchens, from swimming pools to pool tables, or tearooms to teacup poodles, find the community that has features to fit your parent’s personality and preferences.
- Activities schedule. At Aegis Living, our Life Enrichment directors plan a full calendar of rotating daily events and activities to entertain and engage our residents. When touring a community, inquire about the variety of events and activities, and ask to see the calendar.
- 24/7 Care staff. Around-the-clock care staff provides support to meet the personal and medical needs of the residents. The specially trained staff understands the unique needs of the elderly and how to care from residents with dignity.
- Peace of mind. Families spend so much time, energy, and stress worrying about a parent’s health and safety living at home. Moving your parent into an assisted living or memory care community can provide significant relief and peace of mind.
Tips for Having the Conversation
How receptive is your parent when speaking about their living situation, limitations, and lifestyle? When you sit down to start the conversation, remember moving may be overwhelming and uncomfortable for your parent.
1. Be Understanding
Your parent may be worried about losing their independence or nervous about starting over in a new place or simply in denial. Be patient and listen to their concerns as you work through this transition together.
2. Be Clear
Your parent might feel like a burden or believe that it’s more practical to stay in their home. However, staying in your childhood home may cause your family more time, money, and stress to accommodate their changing needs. Be kind, but clear about their current living situation and your concerns for their wellbeing.
3. Decide as a Family
Be prepared that moving your parent can be charged with feelings of guilt and denial, making the process difficult. If your parent has a living spouse, the decision can be particularly sensitive and more complicated. Be gentle with each other through this process, focusing on what is best for your loved one.
4. Involved in the Process
View communities online together and request brochures for review. Find out what is most important in a community (food, activities, amenities, staff), so they are happy and comfortable. Making your parent a part of the process will help your family find the best fit.
5. Take a Tour
The best way for your parent to understand how a community feels and the advantages that it will offer is to see it firsthand. Your parent can meet the staff and other residents, taste the cuisine, tour an apartment, stay for an activity, and get a sense of what it would be like to live there.
6. Have an Ongoing Conversation
Start the discussion about long-term care much earlier than you may think. If your parent is resistant, a single conversation may feel like a confrontation. Take your time and break up the conversation if it feels tense.
At Aegis Living, our staff has built relationships with thousands of families. Although each situation is unique, our years of experience and expertise helps us to guide families through this transition successfully. Contact one of our local communities and speak with a director who can answer any questions that you might have.