It is normal and natural for adults to need help doing certain things as they get older. Some people need more help than others, and the age at which their needs change varies quite a bit. Each individual senior, together with the people who love them, should find the right solution for their personal care and medical needs.
At some point, many adult children find themselves in the position of having to discuss assisted living options with their aging parents. Sometimes, it’s an aunt or uncle, or a close friend. These conversations can be difficult and often emotional, but they’re necessary. Below, you’ll find some guidance on how to talk to a parent or other aging loved one about moving to an assisted living community.
Knowing When It’s Time for Assisted Living
Conversations about long term living situations and care requirements can begin at any time — in fact, it’s often beneficial to start talking long before it’s actually time to consider assisted living. When a family already has a plan, or when the senior is already living in independent living, in a community with a continuum of care, it can prevent the need for a difficult conversation in a moment of crisis.
Some seniors can live safely in their own homes for a long time, possibly their whole lives. However, loved ones should be alert to the signs that it’s time to consider assisted living. Below are some of the most common.
- Safety concerns, such as increased risk of falling on stairs or experiencing a household accident
- Escalating care needs, such as frequent medical visits or ongoing therapies
- Cognitive changes, like difficulty remembering to take medications, eat, or maintain daily routines
- Declining medical conditions that increase the likelihood of an emergency
- Isolation of living alone, especially without the ability to drive or otherwise get around independently
- A family member or close friend is not available to, or capable of providing the level of assistance that your parent requires.
- Home health aides are engaged for increasing periods during the day to provide regular, ongoing care
Nobody wants to see their mother or father lonely or in potential danger. If you are unsure of the urgency of the need, consider having a conversation with your parent’s doctor.
How to Start a Difficult Conversation
The earlier you start these conversations, the more smoothly they tend to go. Financial planning for senior care is also important, so make sure you start those discussions as early as possible, as well. The question of how to pay for assisted living can quickly derail the larger conversation.
When it comes time to talk, include everyone who plays a central part in your parent’s life. This may include their spouse, you and your siblings, and perhaps their spouses and adult children. Anyone left out may feel slighted and resentful — however each family is different, and you will have to decide carefully.
When it comes time to talk, experts advise that you start by asking your parent questions, such as:
- How comfortable they feel where they’re living currently
- What the family can do right now to help them with any struggles they’re facing
- If they have the resources to pay for assisted living or home care
- Where they would prefer to live
- If they have any apprehension or concerns about assisted living.
All kinds of emotions can arise, including negative ones like anger and defensiveness. In addition, some people have misconceptions about assisted living. By listening and validating any concerns, you let your parent know that they still have a voice and you will make these decisions together.
When to Seek Help with Conversations About Assisted Living
Occasionally, the inability of different family members to see eye to eye on the subject of assisted living requires some outside assistance. Visiting a counselor or family therapist can enable you, your parent, and your siblings to work through challenging family dynamics to arrive at the best choice for your senior parent’s living arrangement.
Monica Starkman, M.D. advises to focus “on the history of the parent/child relationship as well as the current relationship, and how to best work together to achieve the best decisions in the here-and-now.”
Take Care of Your Own Needs, Too
Approaching the decision to move your aging parent to assisted living can bring up plenty of emotions for you, the child or relative, as well. Marylin A. Mendoza, Ph.D, writes in a Psychology Today article about the pain and guilt that some adults experience when arranging care for their parents or senior relatives. She says these feelings are normal, and suggest that you:
- Acknowledge and accept how you feel
- Recognize that you are only human and not some superhero
- Be careful what you promise your loved one
- Take the time to nourish and replenish yourself
- Write down your thoughts and feelings
- Talk to friends, family, or other caregivers.
The better your state of mind, the better you will be able to support your parent.
Explore the Benefits of Assisted Living at Aviva
As we have said, there are many misconceptions about assisted living and senior communities in general. First, ensure that you and your loved one both understand what assisted living is and how it compares with other types of senior care.
Then, focus on the benefits of assisted living. Approach assisted living not as a “final chapter” but as an exciting new adventure, the next stage of life. (Many residents at Aviva transition to assisted living from independent living as part of continuing care.) Assisted living encourages seniors to continue to do the things they can and to take part in activities, even learning new skills and hobbies. Residents have their own living spaces, which they are able to decorate and make their own. They can take advantage of many amenities and social interactions, all with the security of on-site medical care and staff members to help them with daily tasks.
If you’re exploring senior living options in Sarasota for your parent or loved one, we encourage you to start by browsing the Aviva website together or requesting more information. We look forward to getting to know you and working with you to make the best decision for your loved one.