When it’s time to consider senior living for a loved one, often it’s the primary caregiver and/or the person closest to the situation who drives the decisions. While it’s certainly true this person may have the inside track, so to speak, there are a number of benefits in getting the whole family engaged in choosing a senior living community. But we know that may be easier said than done in some cases. These tips can help.
Benefits of Getting the Family Engaged
Family dynamics can be complicated, especially during times of crisis and/or when major decisions need to be made, like moving a loved one to senior living. As such, it’s common for families to disagree during the decision-making process. Although it may seem easier to just go around all that and move forward alone, these benefits make it worth it to get the family engaged:
- It’s a lot of weight to carry alone – Not only will you have more pressure and stress on your shoulders, but you’ll also have to shoulder the potential resentment for any decision that other family members don’t agree with; this definitely includes your loved one as they should be as involved in the process as possible since they’ll be the one affected most!
- It’s easier to remain objective – Regardless of how right you may be in that it’s time to consider senior living for a loved one, objectivity is essential in big life decisions. The outcome may be the same, but you want to make sure you’ve covered all your bases, and sometimes being too close to the situation can cloud decision making.
- Everyone deserves to be heard – You are family after all, and everyone’s opinion should be respected. Even if you disagree, it’s valuable to hear other perspectives and perhaps even ideas you haven’t considered. Again, your loved one deserves to be heard, perhaps most of all.
- Collaboration begins with being included – Family members in particular are much more likely to be defensive and resistant to decisions that are dictated to them without their input. In simply hearing them out and encouraging questions as well as concerns to be voiced, you pave the way for collaboration. Plus, people are always more invested in decisions in which they’ve been apart.
Tips on Coming Together in Choosing a Senior Living Community
So, what are the dos and don’ts in engaging your family in choosing a senior living community? Here’s what you should keep in mind:
- Carefully determine the when and the where – First you’ll need to schedule a family meeting, but in doing, so make sure to select a time when you all can be as free of distraction as possible and a neutral place where you’re all comfortable in addition to having the privacy needed. Also, make sure distance doesn’t keep family members from attending by providing Zoom, Skype, or even FaceTime as options for joining in.
- Prepare what you want to say – If you’re leading the discussion, plan what you want to say ahead of time; this certainly isn’t a situation where you want to just wing it. By writing down talking points about why you feel the time is right for senior living, you’ll make sure you cover everything you want and will be able to stay focused even if the discussion gets heated.
- Consider how you’ll communicate – Again, even though you feel that senior living is the best course of action, you won’t get far if you’re planning to dictate your plan to everyone in this meeting. Rather, the idea is to create an open, honest, and ongoing discussion about your loved one’s future. Keeping the tone casual and positive, as well as asking questions about what your loved one may want and need for the future is best.
- Understand what you’re asking of your loved one and the family – Your loved one is likely struggling with the loss of independence, declining health, and the idea of having to leave their home. At the same time, you and the rest of the family are likely emotional about the situation, too. You may have had a bit more time to process the idea of senior living than everyone else, so make sure to show empathy and patience as they adjust.
- Dispel the myths about senior living – Many people have misperceptions about what senior living is really like, and often that feeds the hesitation to move; this is an ideal opportunity to have your family share their questions and concerns about senior living so you can dispel those myths and educate them on the many benefits for your loved one like maintenance-free living, an active, social, and enriching lifestyle, resort-like amenities, and peace of mind that support is always at hand.
- Have a backup plan – Ideally, your good faith effort will be rewarded with your loved one and family at the very least being open to looking at senior living communities. But if not, you may want to consider enlisting the help of a neutral third party as a backup plan. Remember, the importance of objectivity that we mentioned above? Bringing in friends or neighbors who’ve had a similar experience or consulting with your loved one’s physician, a case manager, social worker, family therapist, or spiritual leader may help by providing an outside perspective.