How to Discuss Senior Living Options with Your Elderly Parents

Article contributed by John Francis

You never saw this coming! One of the most difficult things in life is to see your parent’s age- They who protected you once, are now old, frail, vulnerable, and in need of help themselves. But now that the inevitable has arrived upon you, you need to have that conversation- the most dreaded one of your life. So, how do you talk to your elderly parents about whether they should move out of their homes and into a retirement community or care facility? Though not easy, going about it the right way can help them live more safely and get more out of life. The tips below will help you talk to your elderly parents about senior care, senior living, and the way forward for your family.

  • Do Your Homework: Before you initiate the conversation about senior care, prepare yourself by creating a list of your concerns for your ageing parent. Their health problems, the lack of safety in their home environment, and their difficulty in performing activities of daily living, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, or managing their medications could be some of your concerns that you may discuss with other family members as well to get their perspective. Enlist your observations.
  • Educate Yourself Before You Explain: Learn more about retirement communities and senior care options to have a better understanding of what will fit your ageing parent best. Be objective about this since it is not easy to accept how much help your elderly parent needs. If this information is not provided on their website, call and ask.
  • Consider Their Living Situation: Location and environment affect everything from physical safety to mental health to longevity. Learning more about this influence on their quality of life, successful ageing, and exploring the options will give you the confidence and credibility to begin this conversation. 
  • Have the conversation ASAP: Once you learn more and feel you can confidently explain the options, have the conversation as early as possible. Instead of waiting for a health crisis to escalate the issue, tackling this difficult decision beforehand will make you both better mentally prepared to start planning with less pressure.
  • Talk in Person:  Though it is ideal to have a face-to-face and heart-to-heart conversation, setting up a video call is the next best option so that you can at least see each other during the discussion. Fix a time when you and your parents are well-rested, relaxed, and can talk without interruption.
  • Listen Attentively: Your elderly parents may have anxieties, concerns, and objections about moving from their nest built over the years, and into a retirement community. Acknowledge these feelings and continue to ask questions, so that you can better understand their reservations. This will convey to them that you will respect their wishes.
  • Do not Sympathise, Empathise: Your elderly parents will never want you to feel sorry for them. But empathising can make a difference. Sooner or later old age will catch up with all of us and they must know that you understand the fears and frustrations they may feel. You can convey this understanding and care through your calm, kind voice and demeanour. The idea of moving to a retirement community is tough and as soon as you begin to listen effectively, it will help them to accept.
  • Allow Them Time: Don’t rush the conversation as this may be misconstrued by them. Being armed with knowledge, you may feel you are ready to make a decision, but your parents may need more time. Allow them the time they need to express their feelings and concerns. Coming to an unpressured mutual agreement now will have a positive long-term effect on your relationship as you move forward together.

Have a Series of Conversations: Much as you would like to wrap things up in one conversation, the fact is, it will take a series of conversations to arrive at a decision. Unless your elderly parent is in imminent danger, it’s a process that will take its time and must be allowed to.

Shortlist Your Choices: Once you both arrive at a decision, do your research, sit together, and shortlist your choice of communities, discussing their pros and cons. This will allow them to have their say and feel themselves involved in the process.

Visit The Community: Visit the shortlisted communities together. This will not only show them what a community is actually like, but also alleviate their worries about moving and give them an idea of the amenities, lifestyle, culture, and type of neighbours they are likely to have. If for any reason they cannot accompany you, give them a virtual tour of the community.

The final decision is Theirs: Remember it’s their life, and finally their decision.  Unless mentally incapacitated, your elderly parents get to decide whether to move out of their home and into a retirement community. While it’s your responsibility to raise your concerns and present options to them, out of love, the ultimate decision belongs to them.

Some Ice Breakers

When the topic is difficult, starting the conversation is often the hardest part. These icebreakers may help you start and navigate the conversation to a productive conclusion:

  1. Do you still find it safe to live at home alone? Do you have trouble managing medication, struggle in the kitchen or bathtub, fear falling on stairs, or being targeted by criminals?
  2. How do you plan for long-term care? If you fall or get sick and can’t take care of yourself at home, where would you go and how will you pay for it?
  3. Do you feel lonely at times? Wouldn’t it be better to spend more time with people your age?
  4. Do you feel safe or comfortable driving these days? Have you considered other transportation options to do away with the worries of going where you need to, the hassles of car maintenance costs, parking, traffic, etc.?
  5. Do you find it difficult these days to manage your finances and pay your bills on time?
  6. How about getting a helping hand with housekeeping and laundry?
  7. Is it getting stressful to maintain the house?

Ask open-ended questions to encourage a conversation and listen to their answers. Avoid Information Overload as they may find it overwhelming and get defensive, which will end your conversation quickly and make it difficult to resume later. It’s okay to share a little basic information upfront to help them make an informed decision, giving them adequate time to continue their journey of discovery and growth together. 

Article contributed by John Francis