It's not an easy conversation to have, but most of us eventually have to talk to our parents about assisted living.
I've found that it is the rare older adult that embraces the decision to move out of the home they love, and into, what they often deem, "a facility."
Most folks resist the idea because they feel their adult children are forcing them out of their home, and they fear they will lose their independence. Adult children and spouses avoid this complicated conversation as well because they are unsure how their loved ones will react.
I work with adult children and help them create a plan that is best for them, and their aging loved one. Helping them be best prepared before a crisis happens removes some of the uncertainty and anxiety, making it a little easier for everyone involved.
Here are 7 tips to help you talk to your loved ones about moving into assisted living, which can help foster a healthy discussion, instead of a conversation that is filled with anger, frustration, and anxiety.
1. Learn about senior housing options. Before bringing assisted living, learn about the different types of senior living communicate in the state where your loved one lives or may wish to relocate. Pricing varies and may change over time. Be sure to research the average costs for each type of community.
Learn as much as you can about your parents' financial situation and if they have any additional options for funding the move into assisted living and for any of their ongoing care needs. Ask your parents if they purchased long-term care insurance, which can help pay for assisted living in some cases. If one of your parents is a veteran, ask about his/her service to see if he or she might be eligible for veterans benefits which can help pay for long-term care. If you bring solid information to the conversation, instead of speculation, your parents will be better able will be able to base their decisions on facts and avoid unnecessary surprises.
2. Have an ongoing discussion. Broaching the topic about moving into assisted living while your parents are are still able to live safely at home, gives you the opportunity to discuss the future in a non-threatening and hypothetical way. Be sure to have the conversation in a casual, comfortable spot, like at the kitchen table. You can start off by saying, "I know this is hard to talk about, but I want to be make sure I honor your wishes and in order for me to do that, I need to know what they are. We don't have to make any decisions today, but let's just get the conversation going so we can be better prepared for the future".
3. Promise to keep your parent involved in the decisions. Everyone wants to be able to choose where they live and the kind of care they receive. If your loved one is healthy enough to do so, ask him or her to join you in touring assisted living communities or perhaps you can have them visit friends or relatives who have already moved into assisted living. Sometimes seeing these communities in person, helps older adults get a better understanding of how they function, and they can speak with with current residents honestly about their experiences. This will help immensely when it comes time to make a decision.
4. Present assisted living options in a positive language and tone. One way to ensure this conversation goes smoothly is to be careful about how you present it. When speaking about assisted living, use positive, non-threatening words. Refer to assisted living as a "community" rather than a facility. Talk about "condo-style living" rather than "rooms." Highlight the activities, amenities and social opportunities rather than the doctors and assistance with activities of daily living.
The tone of voice you use can make a big difference, too. Make a conscious effort to speak in a calm, quiet and pleasant tone. Let your parent know that it is important to you that he or she be the one to make the final decision. This is a conversation, not a lecture, so be sure to be respectful. Listen to and validate their feelings. If they get angry, don't respond with more anger. The more a person feels they are not being heard, the louder they will speak and the more frustrated they will get. Don't reply with loud tones, or you will end up in a shouting match, which never ends well.
5. Identify the what-ifs. If both of your parents are alive and together, ask them what would happen if one of them dies? Do they want their home to be sold? Should the surviving parent downsize and move into a assisted living community? This part of "the talk" can be challenging and sad, but it can also help you learn about your parents' wishes for and shed some light on what they have talked about among themselves.
Be sure to acknowledge that this is an unpleasant scenario to consider, but share that your goal is to know and understand what they want for each another. You could try saying something like, "Mom and dad, both of you are okay now, but what should we do if that changes?" Ask them for suggestions on how you can help ensure these things happen.
6. Understand why your parents want to stay at home. Older adults may not want to, or be able to express this, but most know that if they make a move to assisted living, it is likely going to be their last residence. Even if they know it's the right thing to do, and that it would be good for them, it's not easy to acknowledge or accept that they are in the twilight of their life.
They also may be unprepared to have their relationship with you change, and might fear losing their independence. Keeping their concerns in mind during these discussions will help you answer their questions and respond to their objections. Discuss different ways you can bring help into the home so they can remain living in their house longer. Be sure to emphasize moving into assisted living doesn't mean they'll no longer have control over their daily life.
7. Understand and research and the progression of any illness. If your loved one has been diagnosed with a progressive condition, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, dementia or heart failure, learn about how it will likely progress and how it could impact their ability to stay at home or make a decision about moving.
Share what you've learned from your research or from their doctor, and discuss how the different services offered by the assisted living community could help them in six months, a year, 1or 18 months from now. As an example, it can be upsetting and disorienting a to move an person living with dementia, but they often have to move to different settings that can provide more intensive care as they decline. Finding the right community that can meet their current and future health care needs, will help ensure that your loved one's life didn't disrupted multiple times due to changing and increasing care needs.
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