Discussing the transition into assisted care can be overwhelming and emotional for both you and your parents. For some, the possibility of moving into assisted living or exploring in-home care is brought on by crisis, which carries its own added stress; for others, the conversation itself can trigger feelings of anxiety and loss of independence.
However, being prepared and viewing the discussion as one that is incremental and ongoing can remove the stigma, and help everyone navigate from a place of affection, not anxiety.
MAKE IT ABOUT YOU
Start the conversation as early as possible, ideally long before a real need is present. One way of opening up the topic for discussion is making it more about you than your parent. “Mom, have you ever thought about where you’d like to live if this house became too much? As your child, I want to be sure the outcome is what you want … ” This opens a dialogue where a variety of scenarios can be considered over time.
If time isn’t a luxury, and you’re a primary caregiver, another approach is to share your worry or concern for them when they’re alone. Most elderly admit to not wanting to be a burden their children in any way; if they know it’s weighing heavily on you, it’s likely they’ll want to begin the discussion, even if it’s difficult.
BE READY TO LISTEN
Whether or not the talk has been a long time coming, it’s likely to stir up a great deal of emotion. Even though making it about you might be the entry point for your dialogue, it’s likely your parents will be sharing some real fears about the future. Be sure you’re ready to listen with an open mind and without distraction.
SEEK OUTSIDE ADVICE
Whether the options on the table are part- to full-time skilled nursing in the home, or some level of assisted living, there are many factors to consider, and therefore many experts to turn to for an opinion. Have a conversation with your parents and their physician, their lawyer, even their financial planner or professional. There are often pros and cons for different scenarios that are easier for them to identify because they aren’t as emotionally entangled.
TRY OUT SOME OPTIONS
The process of choosing an eldercare option isn’t technically all about talking; actually experiencing a taste of what’s to come can aid and guide future discussions. Perhaps your parents might have some friends who have already decided that assisted living was the choice for them. If that’s the case, be sure they have the opportunity to spend some time with them there. Being able to have a conversation with a peer who’s been through the transition can be helpful and it will make the concept less foreign.
If there isn’t a personal connection to any of the options on the table, it’s still possible to visit and spend time with residents on a social level. At a minimum it will help your parents better understand what they’re looking for in a facility.
TEACHABLE MOMENTS CAN BE HELPFUL
Moments that highlight ways that assisted living can be helpful are useful. Did a parent recently slip and fall in a way that would have been prevented in assisted living? Is the yard upkeep becoming financially unfeasible? Gently bring these incidents up in relation to how they’d be different or avoidable with a new living situation.
TRY NOT TO DICTATE
The burden may be on you to do the homework and footwork, but remember you’re there to facilitate, not dictate. It’s easy to develop strong opinions, but try to keep in mind that your parent or parents are the ones facing the greatest change. They need to feel like their emotional needs are supported as much if not more as their physical ones.
Be sure you’re ready to listen with an open mind and without distraction.