Three Ways to Start the Talk About Assisted Living

Talking with our parents about subjects relating to aging can be tough. If their health is declining, or they are starting to need assistance with the tasks of daily life, it’s likely to be even more difficult. You may anticipate that they will resist or refuse to accept that they need a hand. You may hesitate in talking about assisted living, knowing that they will feel sadness or stress at the thought of leaving the home they’ve always known.

We have done a little investigation into ways that adult children approach the subject. These are three ways to start talking that are least likely to cause a rift in your relationship. In fact you may even realize that your parents are more positive than you thought, about the prospect of having assistance!

1. The conversation should be ongoing

Begin the discussion with your senior parents about their future earlier rather than later or in a time of health crisis. It’s easier to approach the subject when they are living independently in their home without assistance. Talk in a non-threatening manner, over coffee in a comfortable place, or even during a walk. Plant the seeds for thought, and look at this first talk as the beginning of an ongoing conversation.

When the time comes to make a decision about assisted living, it will be easier to talk seriously if you already have an idea of their wishes.

Here are a few tips for approaching the subject:

  • Let them know this is not an easy topic, but you want to be certain, as their child, that you honor their wishes.
  • Assure your parents that starting talks now allows ample time to consider all possible options.
  • You would like them to discuss their wishes with you so that if there’s ever a crisis, you will already know what they want.
  • Assure them that you will be there to help when they need it.
  • Tell them the future doesn’t need to be decided right now; you’re starting the discussion to give them time to think earlier rather than during the stress of a possible crisis.

2. Choose your words carefully

A discussion about your parents’ future can escalate to an argument if you approach it in a disrespectful way. Do not use language that casts negativity on aging or needing assistance. Refer to it as a ‘community’ or ‘condo style living’, not a ‘facility’. Call the accommodations ‘suites’ or ‘apartments’ rather than ‘rooms’.

Mention the social aspects of community living and highlight positives such as fitness centres, spas, as well as leisure time to pursue interests and hobbies. You may find that they’re already looking forward to the idea of no more home-maintenance, lawn mowing or shoveling snow!

Listen to your parents talk and make the effort to understand whether they have underlying fears or reservations. Don’t use words like ‘you should’ or ‘I want you to’. Assure them that they will be the ones that make the final decision and it’s important to you that they are comfortable, safe and happy.     

3. Know the variety of options in senior living

Do your research and be prepared before you get too involved in discussions. There are many options in senior living and the costs as well as the levels of care will vary. If your loved one has an illness that will inevitably worsen with time, look for a senior community that will accommodate such changes. You probably don’t want to see them move only to face moving once again in a couple of years.  

Moving can be stressful at the best of times, but a move to assisted living indicates more than simply a change of address; it also means giving up one’s independence. Your parents may be viewing this move as going ‘somewhere to die’ and they will have to face their own mortality. Leaving the home they’ve known may be a stark reminder that they spent years caring for you, and this signifies a time when you’ll begin caring for them.


Written by Alice Lucette
Image by North Charleston of Flickr

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