How to Talk to Your Parents about Senior Living

This article is under these other important topics
How to Talk to Your Parents about Senior Living

You’ve seen your parent’s health decline. They may be struggling with daily activities on their own. The house is becoming too much to manage. You’re concerned about their safety living alone. Perhaps it’s a combination of all the above. Whatever the case, you know in your gut it’s time for the talk about senior living. This conversation is never easy to have, particularly if your parent feels everything is fine. We can help with these tips.

Fear for the Future

This is a time filled with emotions. For you, it can feel surreal as your parents age and the dynamic shifts from you as the child to caregiver and/or decision-maker.  For them, the future is often wrought with fear.

Some of the most common fears for seniors include:

  • Loss of independence
  • Declining health
  • Running out of money
  • Having to leave their home
  • Losing loved ones
  • Having to depend on others
  • Not being able to drive
  • Being isolated and lonely
  • Falling or becoming incapacitated

As you begin talking with your parent about senior living, take these fears to heart and show empathy and patience.

Preparing for the Talk

It’s important not to think of this as just one talk about senior living, rather a series of open conversations about the future. And ideally you and your parent should start these conversations before the need is dire. This way you have more time to understand their wishes, evaluate options and decide together on the best plan going forward. 

As you prepare to start the discussion, make sure to:

  • Write down talking points — Getting your thoughts down about why you believe it’s time for senior living can guide the discussion and help you remember important questions.
  • Contact family members — This includes any family who should be part of the discussion to get their input (even if they can’t be physically present).
  • Consult a professional — If you suspect there will be resistance to the idea of senior living, consider talking to their physician, a case manager, social worker, lawyer, financial advisor or even a therapist or spiritual leader. Input from a neutral party, particularly one your parent trusts and respects, can be really helpful.
  • Select time(s) to talk — This should be when you and your parent are free of distractions, pending appointments or to-dos to allow the discussions to go at their own pace.
  • Keep the tone casual and positive — Ask questions about your parent’s needs and wants for the future and their concerns.

Discussion Don’ts

  • Dictate a plan to your parent — To create an ongoing, honest discussion about their future they should be included in all aspects of the process.
  • Parent your parent — Share your concerns, but it’s important they feel respected and heard.
  • Feed the fear — Guide the conversation around those common fears, but in a way that gets you collaborating together to help them live their best life, not scaring them into a move.

Understanding the Gains

As you’re helping your parent understand why they need senior living, make sure to also help them understand what there is to look forward to, such as:

  • An environment that fosters independence — Perhaps even more so than at home with the right amount of support to help them live life to its fullest. 
  • A worry-free lifestyle — Senior living communities offer restaurant-style dining, housekeeping and laundry services along with spacious accommodations and amenities such as pools and fitness centers.
  • Abundant social opportunities — As well as opportunities to stay mentally and physically fit with monthly calendars filled with clubs, classes, events and outings.
  • Making their space their own — Senior living doesn’t mean they have to forgo their style and personality. Whether its favorite photos, knick knacks, books or tunes, we want you to personalize your space. 

Making the Move

Once your parent has agreed to move to senior living, it’s time to consider your options. And there are plenty of them! The first step is to identify the type of senior living that would support your parent’s needs best.

Types of Senior Living

  • Independent Living — Ideal for active seniors who require little daily assistance as onsite medical care is not typically available. 
  • Assisted Living — Provides housing; onsite care and support with daily activities such as bathing and dressing while helping residents maintain their independence. 
  • Memory Care — Designed to support those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with specifically trained staff and 24-hour supervision along with therapy, structured activities and programs.
  • Skilled Nursing  — Offers 24-hour supervised care and assistance with daily activities, a licensed physician or nurse on site, as well as physical, speech and occupational therapists..

While you can find stand-alone independent living, assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing communities, some senior living communities offer a full continuum of care all on one campus.

To help you ease the transition for your parent:

You can often arrange an in-home visit from the community. During the visit a staff member will get to know your parent, learn their needs, likes and desires and answer any questions you may have.

You can also visit the community often with your parent to have a meal, participate in activities and get to know the staff as well as your new neighbors.

For more information on how to talk with your parents about senior living as well as tips on choosing the right community, check out our Family Decision Guide!