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How To Talk To Elderly Parents About Assisted Living

When parents sit their kids down to have “the Talk”, it’s usually about physical activity in relationships, to put it euphemistically. But when adult children ask their parents to participate in “the Talk,” it typically has to do with the parents’ increasing need for assistance — something the elderly parent(s) might not be willing to acknowledge.

Even if they do admit they’re not as spry as they once were, your parents may have no intention of leaving their beloved long-time home. If they’ve always been independent, your parents may not be able to readily shift perspective and agree they could use some help.

How Do I Convince My Parents To Move to Assisted Living?

Since arranging for relocation in a crisis is never ideal, it’s wise to start the conversation about a potential move to assisted living early. Especially if your parents are in fairly good health now, broaching the “what if?” topic to get them thinking about their evolving needs is smart. Someone’s situation can change in an instant if they take a fall or have a stroke, for example, either of which can happen out of the blue.

If you meet with head-on resistance, you’ll know ongoing conversations on the subject of assisted living are in order. Here are some talking tips to help you start off on the right foot:

  •      Speak to your own concerns. Instead of saying, “Mom, you can’t manage the stairs anymore, you really have to move” say, “Mom, I’m worried that you might take a tumble and hurt yourself.”
  •      Make it a collaborative conversation. Your brothers, sisters, and other close relatives should all be part of the caregiving community selection process. If you’re located in far-flung locations, a Senior Move Manager can help facilitate the process for your family.
  •      Do your homework. Start researching assisted living communities now. Many of the best communities may have waiting lists, and when your parent is open to the subject, the more informed you are, the smoother the conversation will be.
  •      Be their advocate. If your parent is receptive, ask him or her to “indulge you” by accompanying you on a few visits to nearby assisted living communities, “just to see what they’re like.”
  •      Discuss the costs of assisted living. Do you know your parents’ financial situation? Have they planned for long-term care? Will it be necessary to sell the house in order to afford assisted living? Review How to Pay for Assisted Living for a thorough overview.
  •      Suggest a “try before you buy” visit. Some assisted living communities to allow prospective residents to stay for a week or even a month to get a feel for whether this is the right fit for them, and to develop a comfort level with the assisted living environment before making a commitment.

How Can I Transition My Elderly Loved One to Assisted Living?

As mentioned, if at all possible, have your loved one spend at least a few days, if not longer, living at the assisted living community, so they can become familiar with their prospective new home.

  •     Meet the team. Before you help your parent pack and move, arrange to meet with the assisted living team that will facilitate the move. Ask for details about any issues you or your elderly loved one may have, such as how much of their personal furniture will fit in the new living space.
  •     Make time for goodbyes. Your parent has probably lived in their home and neighborhood for a long time — they may be leaving the house in which you grew up. This can be a difficult experience for any of us, the more so for someone who has endured many other losses. They may experience relocation grief, even when the move is a positive change.

Acknowledge your parent’s sadness about the upheaval, and give them plenty of time to adjust. Allow time for goodbyes to the old neighborhood, friends, their postal person, grocery store, the local park, etc.

  •      Personalize the new living space. Help your parent decorate their new apartment or room, especially if they bring some treasured items that say “home” to them. This will go a long way towards making their space feel welcoming.
  •      Be your parent’s advocate. If your loved one has concerns after an adjustment period, discuss what steps you can take together to resolve the issue. It might simply be a matter of asking a staff member a few questions, which your loved one may be reluctant to do as a new resident.
  •      Stay in touch! Remind your parent that just because they’ve moved to a new residence, nothing between you needs to change: you’re still going to be in regular contact. If you live at a distance, phone, email, and video calls will help keep you close.

How Do Seniors Adjust to Assisted Living?

What is the actual assisted living experience like? One 88-year-old assisted living resident authored an ebook on this topic: Assisted Living: An Insider’s View.

Carol Netzer, a retired psychologist, shares poignant, often hilarious, and scrupulously honest “overheard” commentary from her fellow residents. She has lived in two assisted living communities, and the candid comments she’s overheard include:

  •      “Assisted living never stopped him from taking a summer vacation. Even when he had to use a cane in Japan.”
  •     “I miss my old house sometimes. Otherwise, I don’t mind leaving my past life behind me.”
  •     “I think the food is getting better here since they hired a dining room manager.”
  •      “I made sure there were poker games going in this residence before I signed up.”

How long will it take for your elderly parent to adjust to assisted living? While some highly resilient people adapt in a matter of weeks, the typical adjustment period for seniors is anywhere from three to six months. And while a senior may be reluctant to admit it, for many, the move to a supportive community enriches their lives in ways living at home did not.

One daughter reported, “My mom keeps saying she wishes she could complain, but cannot. Living at home, she did nothing. Now she is playing

Mah Jong and cards, going out to lunch every week, visiting thrift stores. I am so happy she is content.”

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