Talking to aging parents about assisted living

If you’re lucky and blessed with good genes, your parents are still with you well into your adult life. Sometimes they get to be grandparents, a vital and loving part of our children’s lives. Every once in a while, they even get to be great-grandparents or great-great grandparents, sharing with future generations the wisdom that comes with longevity. But at some point, a difficult decision may be necessary. As our parents age, they begin to need help, sometimes with daily tasks. And if you’re in a position where you are still caring for your own children, assisting your older parents may become difficult, or even close to impossible. At that point, it may be time to consider an assisted living facility. But that can be a very difficult conversation to have with your parents. After all, they spent a huge chunk of their lives caring for you, and they might not be ready to give up control of their lives in such a way. But if they can no longer properly care for their home, if they have trouble cooking and cleaning for themselves, or if you are worried they are confusing their medications, you have to face that conversation head on. Here are a few tips to help you talk with your parents about assisted living.

Before you approach them, you should take the time to explore all of the available assisted living options. The conversation is going to be a challenge, and your parent will have a ton of questions. It will go more smoothly if you actually come prepared with some answers. They’ll also feel your discomfort, so if you’ve found some facility options that you feel good about, they’ll notice. You don’t want to ever have to be concerned for the care they are receiving, so hunt around until you’ve got some great options in mind. Explore the financial realities of assisted living, as well as the possible locations, quality of care, and how much care will be needed right now and later on down the line. Remember that assisted living doesn’t always mean they must go live in a home. Even just bringing a nurse into their home may solve the problem, and won’t have your parent feeling like he or she is being put away.

Once you’ve got the options in mind, approach the conversation with a focus on the positives of assisted living. Your parent has always been used to taking care of you. So if you start talking to them about all the reasons why they need help, they could become angry or emotional. Instead of dwelling on the negative, point out all the strengths of assisted living. It will certainly help increase their quality of life, reduce their risks in any emergency situation, and for widows and widowers, take away a bit of the loneliness they may be feeling. In the end, you want your parent to understand this conversation is happening because you love them dearly and you are always concerned for their safety and welfare. If the decision being made comes from that place, it will work out in the end.

If the conversation is going well and your parents are on board with the idea of assisted living, make sure they are full partners in the decisions going forward. The worst thing you can do is choose the facility and level of care, and then enroll them without their blessing. Make them a part of every possible decision, and it will minimize the feeling that they are losing control of their lives. Of course, this may be difficult as they get older, so you should talk to your parents earlier, to make sure you are clear about their desires before they get too old to express them. And remember to be compassionate, and acknowledge their feelings. Sure, there are some amazing senior housing communities that offer excellent lifestyles. But this transition won’t be easy for any parent, so give them the time to digest each option, until they feel confident it is right for them.

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