Are the warning signs that the senior you love is struggling to keep up with their home becoming more apparent? Do you find yourself being called on to help them with tasks like bathing and dressing? Are they having difficulty managing their finances and getting bills paid on time?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to have a talk with your siblings about your elderly parents’ needs and safety. While it may be a tough conversation to have, it’s too important of a topic to delay. Presenting a united front when you talk with your parents about your concerns and about the possibility of moving to assisted living is essential.
The key is preparing ahead of time.
How to Have the Family Conversation about Assisted Living
- Do Your Homework: Before you tackle this topic with your siblings or your elderly parents, spend some time researching and getting to know senior care options. Elmcroft Senior Living’s Resource Center is a great place to start. You might even want to visit a few communities in person to help you better understand all of the benefits of assisted living.
- Sibling Meeting: While you might be tempted to leap in to decision-making mode on your own, especially if you are concerned about a senior’s safety, it is usually not the best approach. Unless you are in the midst of a crisis, take time to talk with the rest of your family. Schedule a meeting with your siblings. It is best to do this in person, but faraway loved ones might not be able to make it. Use Skype or another video chat service to allow them to be a virtual participant.
- Ground Rules: Try to be kind and respectful of your siblings and your parents no matter how frustrated you might feel. Emotions often run high during difficult conversations like these. Ask everyone to prepare a list of concerns ahead of time. If you are the primary caregiver, you likely have the best insight. Be prepared for siblings who don’t see your parents as often to deny the problem is very serious. Have specific examples you can share to help educate them on the changes.
- Decide on Approach: The next step is to decide how to go about talking with your parents. You all likely know your parents better than anyone. Do you suspect it will be better if just one child broaches the subject? Maybe the one they count on the most for assistance? Or should everyone sit down together to talk? While presenting a united front is important, that doesn’t mean everyone must participate in the same conversation. Your parent might feel a little overwhelmed or that they are being “ganged up on."
How to Have “The Senior Living Talk” with an Older Parent
Once you agree on how to approach the subject with your parents, these tips can help you begin:
- Ease in to the Conversation: Instead of just launching in to a discussion about moving into assisted living, ease in to the conversation with your parents. It might be better to talk about a friend or colleague’s parent who has recently made this type of move. Share how happy they are being surrounded by peers and to have a variety of life enrichment activities to join every day. It might be easier to talk while you are taking a walk or working on a project together.
- Keep It Positive: Approach the discussion with an open mind and an open heart. Rather than pointing out the negatives about your parent living at home where they might not be safe, talk about the advantages of moving to an assisted living community. Also, make an extra effort not to be critical of your parent’s feelings. Keep the discussion solution-oriented.
- Share Your Concerns: If your parent is resistant to getting in-home care or moving to assisted living, share your concerns in an empathetic way. Is a fear that they will fall when no one is around to help keeping you up at night? Talk about it. Ask your senior loved one if they have any suggestions for improving the situation without coming right out and suggesting a move. It is better to let your family member come to their own conclusions.
More than One Conversation
Finally, understand and accept that it isn’t very likely your parent will agree to make a move after a single conversation. This is typically a process that involves several discussions. Unless you parent is in an unsafe situation, be prepared to let them set the pace.