Having an open discussion with an older adult about the prospect of moving to a retirement community can be difficult — if not impossible. This is especially true if there is no immediate medical need that presents itself as the “reason” for the move to an assisted living community. Most of the time, older adults choose assisted living simply because they cannot perform Activities of Daily Life (ADLs) anymore — sometimes without them even realizing it. In cases like these, the question of “why?” will almost undoubtedly come up during the conversation. That can be difficult to answer if you are not prepared.
That’s why we put together this helpful guide that you can use to prepare you and your family for “the conversation”.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
If you are apprehensive about speaking with a parent or loved one about their care needs, you are not alone! Many families struggle with this discussion, but it is an incredibly important one to have. The last thing you want to do is put something like this off until it’s too late.
Anticipating a difficult or emotional discussion? Here are a couple helpful tips to consider ahead of time:
- Determine need: Discuss your loved ones needs and compare them with the services and amenities offered at different senior living communities.
- Create a plan: Start doing some research online to find out what kind of care is available and how that can benefit your loved one as they age.
- Ask for help: If you have siblings, make sure they are involved in the process. Meet with them ahead of time and come to an agreement on what kind of care they should receive.
- Don’t make any decisions: You never want your loved one to feel as though they are being forced into something. Present options, not final decisions.
- Keep emotions out of it: If you or your loved one are are having a particularly rough day, wait. You want to have a clear mind because ultimately this is not a confrontation, it’s a conversation.
Initiating the Conversation
Ideally, you want to have a caring and honest conversation in a judgement-free setting where your loved one feels comfortable. This isn’t an intervention, so don’t treat it as such. Instead, make them an active participant in the conversation by asking open-ended questions and encouraging them to share their feelings.
Once the conversation has started, the two most important things you can do is to first to listen to what they are saying, and second to be mindful of your language/phrasing. In some cases, they may actually be relieved that you brought it up, while others might become angry or even scared. If former is true, it’s likely a result of them feeling like they are being told what to do. You can avoid this by using phrases that are not pushy or declarative. Instead, leave things open-ended while asking for their input throughout.
The last thing you should remember is that this doesn’t have to be a one-time conversation. A decision does not need to be made immediately. It’s best to go in with the understanding that you and your family will probably need to have multiple conversations to figure out the best possible living situation. Patience is key.
If the conversation goes well, start scheduling tours immediately and make sure they are fully involved in the process. Tours give you and your loved one the opportunity to view the facilities and interact with residents to see if it’s a good fit. Click here to read more about how to choose a facility and find out what questions you should be asking during the tour itself.
If the conversation goes poorly, stick with it — they may just not be ready or they need some time to think it over. If they remain resistant, just make sure you are patient. These things rarely happen over night, so don’t be discouraged if the conversation doesn’t go as planned.
The good news is that, regardless as to the outcome of the conversation, you’ll at least walk away with an idea as to what kind of care is needed if/when the time comes. A lot of time, families will put off the conversation until an emergency happens. Then they find themselves unprepared, making an important decision in the midst of a crisis. You won’t be in that position if you have the conversation early.