Talking to your aging loved ones about their senior living options isn’t always an easy conversation to have. Your loved one might feel apprehensive about losing their freedoms, or they might have a great sense of attachment to their current home. They may even respond negatively to the suggestion that they require any kind of assistance at all. For these reasons, it might be tempting to avoid the conversation for as long as possible, but it’s important not to put it off. While it might be an uncomfortable topic, approaching the conversation in the right way could help your loved one get more out of their life and/or live more safely.
Here are a few tips to encourage the conversation.
- Get other people involved.
If you have other close relatives who could help with the conversation, it’s best to make this a team effort and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Depending on your situation, it might also be a good idea to ask a third party to be involved, such as a doctor or family friend.
- Be prepared.
Write down your observations and outline what your main points of concern are ahead of time. Are you worried that their home environment is no longer safe? Do they require assistance with certain tasks, like managing their medications? It also helps to do some research before sitting down to talk. Learning more about what options are available will help you get a better understanding of what might be the best fit for your loved one’s needs and allow you to convey that information with more confidence.
- Avoid information overload.
After all that research you did earlier, it might be tempting to share all of the statistics and information that you’ve learned. However, you don’t want the person you’re talking with to feel overwhelmed. Share the basic information upfront and make sure you are being clear and to the point.
- Make it a discussion.
This should be a true conversation, so don’t try to trivialize your loved one’s concerns or impose your will. Listen to their anxieties or objections and ask questions so that you can better understand where they’re coming from. The discussion is more likely to be productive if your loved one feels respected and listened to.
- Don’t judge.
If your loved one starts getting defensive or disengages from the conversation, you might find yourself feeling frustrated. It’s important to try and put yourself in their shoes and to demonstrate empathy. The idea of loss of independence is very difficult for a lot of people to deal with, so try to be understanding.
- Take your time.
Your loved one might need time to process things and to put their feelings into words. Try to give them the time they need, instead of rushing them. This might need to be a series of talks, so be prepared for coming to a decision to be process.
- Arrange a visit to a community.
One of the best ways to alleviate your loved one’s concerns is seeing what the living conditions in a retirement community are actually like. An in-person or virtual tour can help both you and your loved one get a better understanding of the lifestyle, culture and amenities that a community has to offer.
One final point to keep in mind is that it is their decision. Unless your loved one is no longer capable of making decisions for themselves, the ultimate say in the matter is theirs. There are a lot of things that you can do to help them reach an informed decision (providing information, booking a tour, etc.), but remember that, at the end of the day, it’s their call.
While these tips can help you to prepare for discussing their living arrangements with your loved one, it will likely still be an emotional conversation, for everyone involved. Keep in mind, however, that the biggest hurdle is often broaching the topic the first time, and the earlier you get that out of the way, the better. You don’t want to put this discussion off until you reach the point where your loved one requires immediate help. Talking about what they want early will allow for less pressure, on both you and your loved one, and will make it easier for you to find the living arrangement that’s best for them together.