After the birds and the bees, “the talk” about assisted living can be one of the most difficult conversations that kids have with their parents. Talking to your parents about assisted living is stressful. It’s scary. It can make you feel guilty and it can make them feel hurt. But, it has to be done, and it’s better not to put it off. Here are some tips and advice for successfully discussing assisted living with your family.
Conversation Tips for Talking About Assisted Living
The hardest part of discussing assisted living is introducing the topic for the first time. Ideally, bring it up early, when the pressure is low. Ask questions that invite conversation and help you understand each other. If it gets too upsetting, back off and regroup. By having regular, light chats rather than a high-stakes confrontation, you can help make assisted living a normal and comfortable topic.
Some questions you can ask to help start conversations about assisted living include:
- How safe do you feel living at home?
- Is it getting hard to keep up with home maintenance?
- Are you worrying about crime rates in your neighborhood?
- Do you ever wish that you lived near more people your own age?
- Do you find it difficult to get around these days?
- Would you be less stressed if you had help handling daily tasks?
Understanding your parents’ fears, stresses, and concerns can help you pinpoint not only where they most need assistance but also where they may be failing to notice their own needs. Affirming that they are heard and understood gives you credibility when emotionally difficult topics come up.
Know What Your Parents Really Need
When you chat or visit with your parents, be observant. As we age, we may or may not notice ways in which our capacity to care for ourselves is slipping. Knowing where your parents are at-risk can help you make the case for assisted living both to them and to other family members who feel invested in the decision.
Take some time to think about and note the following:
- Physical Well-Being: Is their hygiene suffering? Do their clothes seem disheveled or unkempt? Do they have injuries from falls or small accidents?
- Home Safety and Care: Is the fridge newly empty or full of expired food? Are there suddenly dust or cobwebs in a house that used to be spotless? Are small repairs starting to add up instead of being addressed right away?
- Memory and Cognition: Do you notice a parent asking the same question several times even though you’ve answered? Are important items being misplaced or left behind? Have you observed unusual changes in personality or mood?
Keep a special eye out for things that might be dangerous to your parents if not addressed. Mention them thoughtfully and compassionately. Bring them up with the family doctor if you’re unsure whether there is a problem.
Be Compassionate When Discussing Assisted Living
Remember that none of these things should ever be used to attack your parents or make them feel badly. Instead, think of them as tools for making a clear case that there is a better option than what they currently have.
When talking with your family about assisted living, keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Don’t act like the decision is already made
- Be calm and patient
- Address concerns or anxieties realistically and respectfully
- Involve a mediator or support person if needed, such as a doctor or spiritual adviser
Many seniors feel afraid that assisted living means being abandoned. They may feel shame or embarrassment about being unable to care for themselves or having to rely on their children. These feelings are normal but don’t necessarily mean that assisted living is the wrong choice.
Be Realistic About Your Own Caregiving Ability
If you know that you are not able to give your parents the care that they need, that’s ok. Family caregiving is a demanding job. It puts a strain on personal relationships, jobs, and home life.
Make a realistic assessment of your own capacity to care for your parents, based on what you have observed about their desires and needs and what you know about your own life. If you can’t give them what they deserve, it’s ok to say so. Let your parents know that for you, assisted living is not about abandonment but about love.
It might be painful to talk about your limitations and theirs. But with openness, honesty, and patience, your family can work together to agree on the best path.
Are you and your family considering assisted living for a parent or other loved one? Contact us today for information, help, and support, or to schedule a virtual tour.