Tips for Talking to Your Parents About Senior Living Choices
As our parents’ age, we may see a shift in their abilities both cognitively and physically. Before health concerns escalate to a crisis situation it’s good to do some research and understand your options before you sit down to have a conversation.
Before the Conversation … Where to Begin
Here are some helpful tips that’ll help you navigate a way to move forward with your family when transitioning into senior living or senior care.
- Do your homework. It’s difficult to know how your aging parent will react. The range of emotions can be anything from resistance to reluctance to relief.
- Create a list of your concerns for your aging parent. Are you worried that their home is no longer a safe environment for them? Or that the mistakes they keep making with their medication will have a dangerous outcome? Whatever your concerns are, write them down.
- Educate yourself. As you learn more about senior care options, you’ll get an understanding of which ones will be a better fit for your parents. Admitting just how much help your loved one needs isn’t easy, and you may find yourself downplaying just how serious their need for help really is. But, be as objective as you can.
- Learn how important the environment is for seniors. Where you live influences your quality of life – meaning location and environment have an effect on everything from physical safety to mental health to longevity. The more you learn about this, the better prepared you’ll be.
- Go on tours of retirement homes. Nothing beats an in-person visit to see what the vibe of the home is and to learn about their clubs, programs, and activities. Kingsbridge Retirement Community offers tours that showcase the full range of services offered. This includes services that will help your parents’ age in place with living independently to a full assisted living floor.
Exploring the options and learning more about successful aging can give you the confidence and credibility you need to begin this conversation. But, this doesn’t mean you’re making decisions without the consent of your parent or aging family member. Instead, you’re preparing yourself to be as helpful as possible for the conversation and decisions ahead.
Tips for a Better Conversation about Senior Care
- Talk in person. If you can avoid doing this by telephone this conversation is best to have face-to-face. Pick a day when you and your parent are well-rested and relaxed. Block out a time and a location where you can talk without interruption.
- Empathy, not sympathy. No older adult wants their child to feel sorry for them. But empathy is another matter. Your kind, calm voice, and demeanor will show you care – and that you’re trying to understand the fears and frustrations they may feel. The idea of accepting in-home care or moving to a senior living community is tough. You begin to help as soon as you really begin to listen.
- Don’t rush. Once you’re armed with knowledge, you may feel ready to make a decision. But your parent may need more time. Allow them the time they need to find the words to express how they’re feeling. Coming to an unpressured mutual agreement now will continue to pay dividends as you move forward together.
- Plan to talk again. And again. As much as you might want to wrap things up in one conversation, the reality is this will likely be a series of talks. Unless your aging family member is in imminent danger, that’s okay. It’s a process, not a one-and-done discussion.
Senior Care Conversation Starters
As with many difficult topics, beginning the discussion is often the hardest part. These conversation starters may help:
- How is it living at home alone?
- Do you still feel safe? (You may want to mention specific safety concerns such as managing medication, falling on stairs, struggles in the bathtub or kitchen. Crime may be another fear they haven’t shared with you.)
- Do you feel lonely sometimes?
- Would you like to spend more time with people your own age?
- How do you feel about driving?
- Would you be interested in other options for transportation, so you don’t have to worry about getting where you need to go, car maintenance costs, traffic, parking, etc.?
- Is it ever hard to manage your finances and keep up with paying your bills?
- Ever wonder about getting a helping hand with housekeeping and laundry?
- Would you feel less stressed if you didn’t have to worry about the house?
Open-ended questions are the best way to encourage them to talk. Sit back and really listen to their answers.
Avoid Information Overload
Finally, beware the flood. Sharing a little basic information upfront can be helpful, but overloading the conversation with research and statistics is overwhelming. What’s worse, when people feel overwhelmed, they can get defensive. And defensiveness will end a conversation fast – and make it hard to resume later. Take your time, and make this a journey of discovery and growth.