Discussing Options For Your Parents

How Should I Talk About Senior Living to Mom or Dad?

It is not unusual to worry about an older family member living alone. A chronic health condition may be compromising their mobility or they may be experiencing the early stages of dementia. To you, it is obvious they need more support.

Nevertheless, it can be challenging to start discussing options for your parents. For many older adults, transitioning to a senior living community may evoke fear, sadness and anger. They may worry that they are losing their independence. They may also worry that they will feel isolated in their new space. Though it will be hard, you can navigate this conversation with grace. Below are five tips on doing just that.

5 Tips for Discussing Senior Living Options

1. Proactively Research Housing Options

Before you initiate the conversation, do your research. Start reviewing senior living options in your free time. It is important to be well-informed and capable of answering any immediate questions your family member may have.

Consider all senior living options including independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and continuing care retirement communities. Briefly, here is what you need to know about each option:

  • Independent living communities are best suited to active adults aged 55+ who wish to enjoy a maintenance-free lifestyle
  • Assisted living communities help adults with activities of daily living like eating, bathing and dressing
  • Memory care communities are specifically designed for older adults experiencing cognitive decline related to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia
  • Skilled nursing communities provide 24-hour nursing care on a short- or long-term basis
  • Continuing care retirement communities offer a continuum of care. Active, healthy adults can start in independent living and later transition to assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing.

2. Learn How to Discuss Finances

Unfortunately, talking about money can be the most uncomfortable part of this conversation. However, educating yourself on the cost of senior living is critical to helping your family member make the best choice.

Understand that the cost of senior living varies based on the specific needs of the individual. Generally speaking, independent living communities will be more affordable than communities that provide higher levels of care. For example, since memory care communities provide programming specifically designed for individuals experiencing cognitive decline, they will be more expensive than assisted living communities. Similarly, since skilled nursing communities provide intensive medical support, they will typically be the most expensive option.

The cost also varies by location because of the financial options available to seniors state-by-state. While there are national financial programs such as Veterans Aid and Attendance, there are also state-specific senior insurance benefit programs to look into. A financial advisor can help you explore these options.

3. Get Off on the Right Foot

When starting this conversation with your family member, always think of this process as collaborating with them, not controlling them. No one likes to feel like they are being controlled and that their voice isn’t being heard, especially when it comes to a major life decision.

Need some help starting the conversation? Below is a list of common issues older adults face while living alone and collaborative statements to encourage your family member to start thinking about senior living. 

  • If your family member has trouble performing daily tasks (bathing, dressing and/or grooming themselves), consider saying: With the way your routine has been going lately, do you think it is causing a decline in your health? A senior living community’s team of nurses and medical personnel could help by creating an individualized care plan just for you.
  • If your family member is forgetting to take or pick up medications, consider saying: Medications seem to be a hassle lately. What do you think about receiving extra help with your medications so you don’t need to worry about forgetting them? A senior living community might be the best option since they can provide medication management and administration services. 
  • If your family member is feeling lonely, depressed or isolated, consider saying: I can see that this routine is bothering you. Would you like to talk about alternative living options where there are other people around? There are people living in communities with the same interests as you. 

4. Approach the Topic with Empathy and Positivity

Remember that your family member shaped you into the person you are today. Honor this by approaching the discussion with empathy and positivity. To keep the conversation lighthearted, for instance, consider mentioning changes that will occur in your family member’s life when they move to a senior living community. For instance, you might say:

  • Did you know that the community has monthly book clubs and poetry readings every Wednesday?
  • I read on their site that they have raised beds out in their courtyard for everyone to grow plants and veggies.
  • Every morning and every evening, residents walk in groups around the community courtyard!

5. Don’t Forget About Yourself

It is not easy to accept that your family member needs more support than you can provide. This realization can leave you feeling depressed or anxious. You may even lose track of your own needs while helping your family member navigate this important transition. As such, you must take time for yourself. Self-care looks different for different people. However, it can be as simple as going for a walk or making a healthy dinner.

It might also be helpful to speak with a senior living professional or a trusted friend. These individuals can provide perspective. They can remind you that, although this change is hard in the present, the care and social fulfillment your family member will receive at a senior living community will drastically improve their quality of life. If you are considering a senior living community for your parent, please take our five minute quiz to learn more about care levels and available options.