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Talking to Your Parents About Senior Living Options

You’ve been worrying about your aging parents for a while now. You may even wake up at night wondering how you can start the conversation about senior living options. Because you love them, you want them to live their senior years to the fullest. Finding the right words to talk about this delicate topic can be difficult.

However, by embracing this discussion with optimism and foresight, we open doors to informed choices and fulfilling experiences. Let’s reshape the conversation to highlight the empowering nature of proactively exploring these options.

In this article, you’ll find effective, practical tips to help you share your concerns and calm your parents’ fears about finding senior living options that work for them. Using an empathetic communication strategy, you can advocate for a lifestyle that supports their well-being, safety and independence while preserving your loving relationship and their dignity.

Statement of Fairness: Considering senior living options for yourself or a loved one? We’re here to help at every step. And even though we specialize in independent and assisted living communities, our goal is for YOU to find your best path to gracious retirement living, and part of how we achieve that is by providing reliable information on all types of senior living, not just the ones we offer. When our offerings serve as useful illustrations to a specific topic, you can find that information in the attached sidebar.

Is it really the right time to talk about senior living options?

No one knows your mom or dad better than you. Look for these five signs:

  1. Memory issues. They’re missing appointments and not taking their prescribed medications. Bills aren’t getting paid, and other important matters are left to slide.
  2. Mobility issues. Moving around has become difficult, and your loved one is unable to care for their home inside or out.
  3. Emotional issues. Your mom or dad is quieter than usual or experiencing mood swings. They’re not socializing like they used to or pursuing hobbies that once gave them joy.
  4. Hygiene issues. You notice that they’re not bathing or brushing their teeth enough and wearing dirty clothes.
  5. Nutrition issues. Mealtime is made up of junk food or skipped altogether.

These changes in your parents’ daily routines could be signs of a bigger issue. They may be struggling with physical limitations, memory loss or even depression. Senior living communities can provide a safe and supportive environment with assistance for daily tasks, social activities to combat loneliness, and health care professionals readily available.

These signs may indicate it’s time to explore senior living options, but remember, this isn’t a single conversation. It’s a process that may take time to open communication.

Talking about senior living options isn’t a one-time conversation.

If someone suddenly told you that you had to change your lifestyle and move to a new place, you’d feel afraid – and who wouldn’t? But for your parent, it’s not just a fear of radical change. How much more afraid would you be if you’d been fed years of horror stories about these locations and the lifestyle they inflict on the poor people who end up there?

You would be understandably apprehensive, and your parents likely do have a very distorted image of what life is really like in a modern retirement community.

No longer are 55+ communities like the “old folks’ homes” of yesteryear. When you visit an independent or assisted living community, you’ll see people socializing, laughing, dining together, taking classes and enjoying their hobbies. Communities are designed to promote mobility, safety and personal independence. State-of-the-art emergency alert pendants and building security systems offer support and peace of mind.

How do I talk to my parents about senior living options?

Plan on having this discussion multiple times.

  1. Prepare yourself. What level of care is needed? Familiarize yourself with communities and in-home caregivers near you. Gather brochures, including activity calendars, from several local 55+ communities.
  2. Pick the right time and place. Block out ample time, and choose a quiet location where it’s unlikely you’ll be interrupted. Sitting together with a cup of coffee or tea sets the scene for a heart-to-heart.
  3. Begin with an open-ended question. “Is it stressful taking care of the house?” “Do you feel safe here?” “Does it get lonely living by yourself?” “What are the things that worry you most?”
  4. Listen more than talk. Although you feel like you’ll need to say a lot to convince your loved one to start considering senior living options, the truth is you don’t. You’ll accomplish more by actively listening to them.
  5. Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t diminish your parent’s thoughts and fears. They’re as real as your concerns. Empathetic communication requires a calm voice and demeanor. Let them know how much you want them to enjoy life while being cared for and staying safe.
  6. Keep your language positive. Fear tactics won’t work. Describe their future with optimism while sharing what you’ve learned about senior living communities.
  7. Involve family and friends.Pick the ones who can speak with love. Even a trusted doctor can participate. It’s important to strike a balance and avoid overwhelming your parents with too many opinions at once. Asking too many people may make them feel like they’re being caught off-guard.
  8. You’re all in this together.Visit senior living communities or interview in-home caregivers together.The final choice belongs to Mom or Dad.

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Somerset Assisted Living

Senior living community staff members serving coffee to senior residents

We decided assisted senior living in Gladstone, Oregon, shouldn’t come with a long list of extra fees. Your monthly rent includes chef-prepared meals, planned activities, special events, weekly housekeeping and so much more. Friendly, trained staff are there to lend a helping hand. We look forward to meeting you.

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What do I say if they object?

Emotional issues make it easy to spiral into anger when people disagree. Stay focused on their needs and the benefits of senior living.

If they say… Your response…
“I can’t afford it.” “I’ve found some pretty affordable options around here, but let’s only consider those in your price range. If you’d rather, we can ask a financial planner. There are programs that may help with the costs, and we can research those together.”
“I don’t want to sell the house that I raised my kids in.” “Wouldn’t it be nice if a young family moved in here? They’d be happy just like we were.”
“People leave you to die in old folks’ homes.” “Times have changed, and there are lots of senior living options nowadays. Let’s go see your friends who have already made the move. We can take tours so we’re certain you can find the one you like.”
“I’m not ready.” “I’m concerned that if you were suddenly unable to live independently, you’d have to make a lot of decisions quickly under pressure. I want you to choose the place you’d like to live.”
“I’m not getting rid of my dog/cat.” “Many senior living communities are pet-friendly. We’ll put that on our list of must-haves.”

You did it! Your parent agrees. Now what?

Visiting 55+ communities can be a fun day out for you and your parent. There are so many exciting senior living options to choose from today. You’ll get a tour, see apartments, and have a chance to meet the staff and residents. In most places, you’ll be invited to share a meal and take part in an activity. You may even schedule a short stay so mom or dad can try it out.

You did it! But they still don’t agree. What next?

You’ve had open conversations, explored senior living options together, and addressed their initial concerns, yet your parent remains hesitant. It’s important to acknowledge that this is a significant life change, and it’s okay if they need more time to adjust to the idea.

Here are some additional approaches to consider:

  • Focus on positive experiences. Perhaps they enjoyed a specific activity or meal during a community visit. Highlight those positive experiences and encourage them to imagine incorporating those things into their daily life.
  • Deepen understanding. Take time to delve deeper into your parent’s reservations. Try to understand if there are underlying fears, past experiences or unspoken concerns that are contributing to their reluctance. Open and honest conversations can provide valuable insights.
  • Consider a trial stay. Many communities offer short-term stays. This can be a great way for your parent to experience the environment firsthand and see if it feels like a good fit.
  • Seek professional guidance. A senior care advisor can provide objective information and support throughout the decision-making process. These professionals can offer personalized guidance, facilitate family discussions and provide additional resources to address complex emotions and challenges.

Remember, patience and open communication are key. Continue to listen to your parent’s concerns and work together to find a solution that meets their needs and makes them feel comfortable and in control. There may not be a one-size-fits-all answer, but with time and exploration, you can find the best path forward for your entire family.

Looking for more help?

Try these resources:

  • The Eldercare Locator is a public service that can connect you with services for older adults and their families.
  • BenefitsCheckUp is a resource from the National Council on Aging that can point you to benefit programs that help with the cost of health care, food, utilities and more.
  • Downsizing the Family Home Workbook, a resource published by AARP, is filled with checklists and tips to get you through the transition. AARP also offers helpful webinars and events on a variety of topics for older adults.

Empathy. Positivity. Planning.

The first conversation may feel awkward, but you’ll gain confidence knowing you’re doing the right thing for the right reason. Equipped with an empathetic communication strategy and realistic knowledge of today’s senior living options, you can gently dispel your parent’s fears and slowly steer them toward a brighter future.

Best of all, without all the stress of taking care of an aging parent, you can spend your time enjoying each other’s company without all the worry.

Find a Community

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Fairview Estates

Fairview Estates Gracious Retirement Living dining area

When you’re looking for exceptional senior living in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Fairview Estates is the place to be. You’ll discover an all-inclusive community with a big heart that has all the little conveniences to make every day yours to enjoy. Located close to cultural attractions and the leading health providers, Fairview Estates offers you an active lifestyle and peace of mind.

Schedule a visit.

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