Having “the talk” can be difficult, emotional, scary. But putting off the subject for another time might leave you with no time for pre-planning. If you’re considering talking to your parents about assisted living (and you probably should be), here are a few tips.
1. If you have siblings, discuss the assisted living option with them first.
The future plan for your parents as they age might be different in your mind than from your siblings’. Make sure you all can agree, or find ways to discuss your disagreements before bringing the topic up with your parents. If disagreements are strong and you can’t have healthy discussion, involve a social worker in your conversations. An unbiased third party can often bring resolution.
2. Bring the topic up before you’re forced to bring it up.
Pre-planning allows you to control the situation, the setting and the direction of the conversation. If it’s possible, choose a time when there’s a network of family or friends available, and when the people involved are happy and relaxed. Open dialogue when everyone isn’t feeling stress or immediacy allows your elderly parent or relative to offer his or her feelings on the subject. It’s dialogue rather than directive.
3. Be willing to revisit the conversations more than once (or a dozen times).
The first crack at it might be unsuccessful. Even just thinking about getting too old or not being well enough to live on your own is a scary consideration. That first conversation may, in fact, just be the ball that gets a long process rolling. Be willing to ride it out.
4. Have options in mind.
If your parents or loved ones are willing to look at brochures, or even tour facilities, have the materials, websites or addresses ready. Being involved in the decision may make your mom or dad feel better about the eventual move.
5. Be ready to discuss the financial aspect of assisted living.
Do you know your parent’s financial situation? Have they planned ahead for long-term care or is there a fixed budget in place for daily living expenses? Personal finances are just that–personal, and delving into the checkbook, savings account and investments–or lack thereof–may cause friction. If it’s possible to involve a financial coach or expert in fiduciary matters, look into services in your area.
6. Make it a bi-annual or annual conversation.
If you begin the process early enough, and you don’t face decisions under duress, the topic of assisted living can be one you assess regularly. After six months or a year have passed, look at how your parent is doing. Assess his or her health, abilities, happiness and safety.
7. Come to the conversation with an educated but open mind.
If your goal is to convince your parent(s) to move to assisted living, then be prepared to discuss the pros and cons. Maybe it’s never having to mow a lawn or shovel snow again; having tasty, warm meals prepared each day; meeting new friends or becoming involved in social activities or classes they’d given up. The safety of an on-site healthcare team might be appealing if declining health is an issue. On the other hand, listen to how your mom or dad is feeling about the topic and show you understand–and really try to understand!–his or her viewpoint.
Whether you’ve taken the pro-active path and have time to research the issues and options, or you’re facing a crisis and feel pressure to make an immediate decision, remember to slow down and breathe. Use resources like AARP, Assisted Living Federation of America, American Seniors Housing Association or the National Council on Aging, to help with the tough decisions.