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Having the Conversation: When You Think Your Loved One Needs Senior Housing

There’s plenty of help out there for those considering senior housing. But there isn’t much information that addresses how to start the difficult conversation you’ll eventually need to have with a loved one—suggesting that they need senior housing in the first place. Often, children of elderly parents feel as though they have no other choice—they worry about Mom falling again with no one home to help her, or have noticed Dad’s bouts of forgetfulness have gotten worse. But for seniors, moving into a senior housing community may feel like the beginning of the end—and can be a frightening, emotional, and difficult time. It’s no wonder many avoid the conversation as long as possible.

Everyone’s family is different—and what works for you depends a lot on individual family dynamics. However, there are ways you can bring up the prospect of moving into an assisted living facility respectfully and with compassion. Here are a few ideas for getting the conversation started.

Women Talking

Considering senior housing isn’t easy for anyone—seniors or their families. Get the conversation started well before a crisis, and you’ll have time to discuss all the options.

Start the conversation before a crisis

As much as you may not want to, it’s important to bring up the idea of senior housing before their situation escalates to crisis mode. Once there’s a major emergency, you won’t have time to consider your loved one’s wants and take your time choosing a place that’s right for them—you’ll have to make fast decisions.

But bringing a loved one around to the idea of senior housing can take a long time. It’s not advisable to force the issue—your loved one may need time to consider the idea from many angles, assess their own health and needs realistically, and change their minds. Your first conversation with a loved one about senior housing may just be about planting the seed of an idea for them to consider.

Never give advice

Giving advice often comes out as coercion—telling a parent they “should” move into a senior retirement community can generate resistance. Instead, begin a discussion about their needs, worries, and concerns about handling their care in the future—and listen. The important thing is to make your loved one feel involved and engaged in the decision-making process.

Instead of promoting a single choice that you favor, offer to go over the options for your parents—the benefits, drawbacks, and realistic possibilities facing them. Instead of dictating a single choice for them, you’ll be helping them choose from among their options.

Bring other family members into the discussion

If you have siblings, it’s important to involve them in the discussion. You’ll need to be sure you all agree beforehand on the best approach—so you can present a united front to your parents and so nothing comes as a surprise during your discussion with them. In addition, even if you’re the executor of the will or have been serving a primary role in providing your parents with in-home care, your siblings will likely still want to be involved. Choosing not to include them can lead to tension in the family.

Consider the problem from your parents’ perspective

For seniors, moving into an assisted living facility might mean losing independence, losing familiar surroundings, and moving away from much-loved family members, friends, communities, and pets. In addition, the move to senior housing can also be seen as a sign of failure. The decision may make life easier for family members, but it can be very emotional and fraught for the seniors themselves.

Be sure your loved one knows that you are committed to finding them an assisted living facility that lets them keep what’s important to them—whether that’s independence, proximity to family, or other important issues. Communicate that you want them to find a place that will enhance their lives, not make their lives smaller.

Considering senior housing isn’t easy for anyone—seniors or their families. Get the conversation started well before a crisis, and you’ll have time to discuss all the options, allow your loved one time to consider, and bring other family members into the discussion. In addition, you’ll be able to develop a plan that works for the senior in your life—a plan in which they are fully engaged and on board.