February 19, 2021

Contributing writer

How to talk to elderly relatives about assisted living

There comes a time in life when adult children realize they don’t have the tools or time to care for their aging parents. Long-term illness, chronic health conditions, and even one too many falls can all lead to families making a decision about moving their elderly family into care homes or assisted communities. But even simple tasks such as eating regularly, taking the correct medications, and maintaining good hygiene are all things seniors can struggle with as they get older.
Assisted living is a difficult topic to approach, and the idea of moving into a senior living community can often make elders feel weak, or like they’ve lost their independence.

Sometimes, elders know they need help but stubbornly avoid the topic when they can. Similarly, children’s spouses might tiptoe around the subject due to an uncertainty as to how their partner might react. Overall, assisted living is an incredibly tough and uncomfortable topic for everyone involved.

This means that usually, the conversation occurs after a medical crisis or a bout of illness, making it feel rushed and more of a last resort. By approaching the subject earlier, families have much longer to discuss all the details, as well as finding a community that suits everyone. It’ll also help remove anxiety and feelings of vulnerability so that the topic can be talked about in a much lighter setting.

Although the decision might seem horrible at first, assisted living can actually be a huge positive for the whole family. While giving children peace of mind that their parents are safe and cared for, seniors can gain a new level of independence while improving their social life and taking part in enriching daily activities. They’ll also have access to medical professionals as and when needed to help with activities of daily living (ADL) without feeling like they are trapped in a care home or hospital.

The following tips can help start the difficult conversation. Be sure to try to broach the subject as early as possible, so there’s plenty of time to provide reassurance and reduce any tension.

Do your own research first

Before trying to start the conversation, get as much information under your belt as possible. It’s better to go into the discussion with all the answers to the questions your relative might have. Similarly, research will help you, yourself, become more comfortable with the idea.

There are several different styles of assisted living available, all of which can differ from state to state.  Some will provide constant care and attention, while others – like Frontier Management – will allow residents to live a much freer and more independent lifestyle. You can find out more about the options for assisted living in Arizona here. Different communities will offer different services: independent living, assisted living, or memory care. Some will offer all three, while others will specialize.

Researching facilities in your area will also help you to gauge the type of budget you’ll need. According to a survey by Genworth, the average cost of assisted living (with a private, one-bedroom unit) in the US is $4,051 a month. Be sure to contact local facilities to check their prices, so you have a better understanding of the long-term costs.

There’s also another level of research to be done: checking your parent’s current financial situation. Ask simple questions regarding their care insurance or whether they have veterans’ benefits. This can all help to pay towards long-term care. It’s also worth checking out additional funding that might be available.

It’s not uncommon for elderly parents to be a little defensive or tight-lipped about their finances. If this is the case, approach the subject when discussing assisted living so that they can see the link. By understanding more about their finances, you can help to find the best, most comfortable accommodation within their budget.

If you know your parent will struggle with the idea of moving into senior housing, research the alternatives. Many elders are able to stay in their own home with the help of in-home care options. This could help you feel at ease while not around and provide your parent with a companion to help with certain daily tasks.

Keep them included

No matter what you think is best for your parents, it’s important to make them feel part of all decisions. At the end of the day, it’s their life, and they’re the ones who will have to live in the new place. Therefore, it’s vital they feel included, rather than feeling blindsided by their children.

Take time to understand their needs and their list of pros and cons for any communities you suggest. This will not only help you gauge what to look for better but also help you to understand what your parents are thinking so you can reassure them along the way.

Many elders may feel like a burden once the assisted living conversation has started, or worry about how much they’ll be able to see their grandchildren. Adult children should take time to get their parents comfortable with the idea and to reassure them that they are still free to visit or be visited by the whole family.

When scheduling visits to senior living facilities, bring your parents with you. You should never be viewing accommodation without them.

Overall, it’s key to stay transparent, honest, and reassuring throughout the discussion.

Avoid talking like the decision has been made

It’s very easy to start putting plans into action. But this can quickly make elders feel rushed or pressured. When approaching the subject of senior living, it’s better to make sure they know no decisions have been made without them. Although you might feel the decision has been made, it doesn’t mean they’ll agree.

Make sure to approach the subject with care, positivity, and hypothetically. Until your parent agrees, decisions shouldn’t be set in place.

If you think you’re ready to approach the topic with your parents, there is plenty of support available both within your local area or statewide.