Independence is a sensitive subject for older adults. Some may not be very comfortable with the idea of assisted living or even moving into a community of seniors. They might be afraid of losing control of their life while you may just want to discuss an obvious issue that you both need to take care of productively and kindly.
The First Steps
Before you even approach your parent or parents, you should do research and get organized. The discussion will be much more productive if you have specific, actionable ideas instead of simply trying to convince them they need help.
First and foremost, you should research the different types of eldercare and facilities your parent could go to. This way, you can evaluate your parent's needs and learn what the available options are. Some options include:
- Home care services. This choice allows your parent to stay at home. They'll receive daily attention, companionship, and help from a qualified nurse or healthcare professional, who can take care of housekeeping matters, medical needs, and general daily living issues.
- Senior housing. If your parent feels isolated and alone, moving into a separate apartment or condo within a community of elderly people might be a good choice for them. They can take part in fun, social events and other community activities, but daily needs — like grocery shopping, laundry, and housekeeping — are all up to your parent.
- Independent communities. Similar to senior housing, these are communities of older adults, except they're more independent. They usually include very nice amenities and allow seniors to live actively and independently.
- Assisted living. This is a setup for seniors who need help on the daily aspects of life but not medical services. Things like food, housekeeping, laundry, medication, and assistance with personal hygiene usually are included.
- Nursing home. To move into a nursing home, you must get a doctor’s note to be admitted. Nursing homes are places for seniors who need complete medical care and help in their everyday life.
- Alzheimer’s and memory healthcare. If your parent has Alzheimer’s or any other memory issues, they may need to go to a specialized care center. These places provide 24-hour care and security as well as other specialized care options.
Understand the Needed Care
Either on your own or with the rest of your family and possibly even your parent (if they're willing), try and figure out the level of care your parent needs. Some of the questions you could start with are:
- Does my parent need 24-hour supervision?
- What things can my parent do alone?
- How comfortable am I personally with helping my parent in their daily life?
Being able to honestly answer these practical questions help clarify several issues in talking with your parent about housing options. Remember, the level of care that your parent knows will shift and change as they age, so you should consider planning for that, too.
Your family are the people you have known and loved your whole life. Oftentimes, unpleasant memories or feelings about our families can influence our decisions. Take time to think about how those dynamics may be playing a role in your decision to find a good housing option for your parent.
Also, think about your siblings — if you have them — and how your relationship with them might influence your decision. Finally, as a family, try to work together before you speak with your parent.
What to Say to Your Parents About Housing Options
Before having the actual conversation with your parents, consider the following tips.
- Try to have this conversation early. Bring housing options to the forefront of your parent’s mind as early as possible. Being able to discuss and plan for it before you need to gives your parent and other family members involved more options and a better chance to find the right plan. Try to remain flexible and open to others when you bring it up. Also, know that you may have this conversation many times — on average, at least once a year.
- Seek to start a dialogue rather than lecture. Instead of boldly proclaiming your parent needs to be moved into assisted care, ask them what their experience living alone is like. Be gentle and ask questions. Seek to understand their life and use your research to try and offer assistance.
- Be empathetic. With respect and kindness, show them that you care and understand how hard getting older may be. Try to connect with them on an emotional level and avoid fake platitudes or being sorry for them.
- Slow down. Bringing stress or timeliness into the conversation may be inappropriate and unproductive. Instead, be casual and calm during the conversation and relax into the fact you may not get everything planned in one conversation.
- Have this conversation in person. This is a very serious conversation that can bring up a multitude of emotions for your family member. Doing this over text or on the phone may diminish it for them. Instead, plan a private, safe, and specific time in which you can speak with your parent without disruption.
- Keep in mind that this is ultimately not your choice. Your parent could be well functioning, but they just disagree with you. If that's the case, all you can do is stay open-minded and try to support them as best as possible. Often, patience and understanding will help your parent the most in the long run.