The conversation about senior living is a subject we get many questions about. Everyone wants to know the right way to go about it, from when to have the conversation to how to bring it up to overcoming your parent’s hesitations. Truthfully, there isn’t one right way to have the conversation about senior living because every family’s circumstances are different. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make the conversation easier. Getting answers to these commonly asked questions can help.
Common questions about having a conversation about senior living
Q. When is the right time to have the conversation about senior living?
A. Sooner rather than later. Many families feel so uncomfortable about the subject that they put it off altogether—but waiting until a crisis can cause even more stress and limit your options. At a minimum, consider having the conversation if your parent’s health is declining, they start struggling with daily activities on their own, the house is becoming too much to manage, and/or you’re concerned about their safety at home.
Q. How do I start the conversation about senior living with my parents?
A. Most people envision the conversation about senior living as one big talk. Instead, we recommend starting with small conversations about your parent and what they want for the future. Consider questions like these:
Do you ever worry about living alone?
How do you feel about managing the house and yard independently?
Do you still enjoy cooking for yourself?
Are you able to connect with friends as much as you’d like?
Keep in mind that you’ll get further by saying less and listening more in these conversations.
Q. Why is it so hard to have this conversation with my parent?
A. First, you don’t want to upset them, make them feel old, or like you’re trying to send them away. But it’s also hard because having the conversation about senior living makes us face our own fears about our parents getting older. It can also be uncomfortable when the dynamic between you and your parent changes with your moving from child to decision-maker. Then there’s the guilt adult children often feel about not being able to be full-time caregivers or uprooting their parents when they’re struggling. It’s a complex conversation that’s emotional on both sides.
Q. How do I keep the conversation about senior living from becoming an argument?
A. It can be scary for your parent to think about getting older and making such a significant change, so we recommend you try to put yourself in their shoes. Loss of independence, declining health, fear of being isolated and lonely, and running out of money are some of the most common fears about aging. Often if your parent reacts in anger, it’s based on fear as a defense. The best way to handle that is to ask open-ended questions, listen, and validate their concerns. But if you feel tempers rising, know when to stop. That’s another reason to have the conversation about senior living sooner; you can more slowly ease into the thick of it.
Q. How do I balance health and safety for my parent and respect their need for independence during the conversation about senior living?
A. The first step is determining what independence looks like for your parent. Then let them know that your goal is to help them maintain as much independence as possible, but it may mean a shift in their perspective of independence. We find that residents often feel like they’ve gotten their independence back because everything they need is right here, and help is always at their fingertips, so they don’t have to call family, friends, or neighbors for help all the time.
Q. How do I address some of my parent’s hesitations about senior living during the conversation?
A. If you’ve asked some of those questions we recommended above, you likely know what might appeal to your parent in a community and how senior living might help them get more out of life. Whether it’s maintenance-free living, a convenient, active, and social lifestyle, amenities that make your parent feel pampered, a focus on healthy aging, peace of mind that support is always at hand, or all of the above, there are plenty of positives for them; focus on that.
There are also many misperceptions about senior living, so it’s important to educate on the reality right off the bat. We’ve also found that including your parent as much as possible in the process is helpful. Give them a say in choosing the community, what they bring, how they’ll make their new space their own, etc. This gives them more ownership and confidence in the decision.
Q. My parent is not receptive to senior living, no matter how often we talk. Is there an objective third party or a professional who can help?
A. Yes! You may not realize that the sales counselors in the communities you are considering aren’t just there to ‘sell’ you; ours aren’t, at least. We can help you with ideas, educational resources, and/or answers to your questions. What’s more, professional case managers and geriatric psychologists can help as well. However, we believe one of the best resources for a hesitant parent is to reach out to friends, neighbors, and/or colleagues who have gone through this themselves. Remember that a community tour can also help them get a true feel for the environment.