The Talk – Discussing Assisted Living with Aging Loved Ones
Talking to your loved one about assisted living is probably one of the hardest things you will ever do, but it’s something that has to be done. So, pick up your courage and hold on to your compassion, since it is a conversation that must happen at some point. It is always better to discuss assisted living with aging loved ones before it is needed, rather than waiting for a health crisis to develop and making hasty decisions later.
To begin with, include all family members in the discussion and involve everyone, even the youngest member of the family, in the decision. It is important that everybody in the family agrees that their parents or grandparents need assisted living. Ask a family member or friend who is closest to your parent to talk to them and have this conversation with them. It should be a two-way communication, and not appear as though the decision is being forced upon them.
Start the conversation and make it an ongoing process. If your loved one is able to live alone and feels that they do not require care currently, gently discuss the future with them, which nobody can control.
You should do so in a non-threatening way. It shouldn’t appear as though you and the rest of the family are ganging up on them. The talk should be a process where everybody’s opinion gets heard.
Watch your language, and make sure the discussion does not escalate into an argument. Handle the conversation with care, and diffuse any potentially disruptive arguments before they gets any serious. Mind the tone of the conversation. Keep your tone neutral but assertive, and stay quiet, pleasant, and friendly.
Make your parent or grandparent understand that the final decision will be left to them. If they respond in anger, stay quiet, and don’t allow it to escalate to a shouting match between the two of you. Your loved one shouldn’t get the impression that their opinion does not matter, or feel insulted or slighted in any way.
Focus on the positives of staying at an assisted living facility. For example, call it a “community” rather than a “facility”. Don’t talk about living in a “room” but in a “condo”. Talk about the friends that your loved one is likely to make, the social opportunities, and how they can continue to visit their favorite church and play bridge with their friends, rather than on the doctors, nurses, and medication.
It is important to understand that although your parent or grandparent knows that moving to assisted living would be the right thing for them, they hate to admit it to themselves. It’s never easy for anyone to acknowledge their own mortality and the fact that they are in the twilight of their life. Take their concerns into consideration while having “the talk” with them.
Finally, ask them about their financial situation and find out if the rest of the family has to contribute. It is important to know what your parent or grandparent can afford. Make them understand that you are not interested in their money, but want to help so that their transition to assisted living is smooth and effortless.