As our parents age, we find ourselves having to have all kinds of conversations with them on topics we’d rather not discuss. There’s the “How are you financially?” talk, the “What do I do when you die?” talk, and, just as unpleasant, the “I think it’s time to consider moving” talk.
For seniors who have been independent their entire adult lives, being told by their children that it’s time to adjust their living arrangements can be not just unnerving, but offensive. And unfortunately, some parents immediately put up walls when the subject is broached, declaring that they’re not moving under any circumstances.
If your mom or dad really is struggling with daily tasks, or experiencing safety issues from living at home, however, you’ll have to help them get into a better situation. What can you do to approach the subject in a positive, non-threatening way?
Start talking early
Eldercare experts like author and nurse, Stella Henry, say that you should start talking about the future with your parents early on, before things reach a crisis.
Your parent’s preferences, what they think the future will bring, how much they want you to be involved - knowing at least something about these points will make it easier to talk about moving when the time comes.
What you don’t want is to have to broach the topic after something serious has happened - a fall, perhaps, or a heart attack. It’s much more likely then that you and your parent will both be highly emotional, which will only make the discussion more difficult.
Having those discussions early will also help immensely when it comes to making financial arrangements for the new living situation. Whether your parent needs a home nurse a few hours a day or becomes a permanent resident of a nursing home, the expenses can easily start piling up. Knowing whether your parent has anything put aside to cover those expenses can greatly reduce your family’s financial stress later on.
If there are no funds put aside to pay for long-term care, your parent may want to look at other options like a life settlement.
Don’t expect the decision to be made in a single conversation
Moving in with a family member, or into an assisted living facility or nursing home, is a big, scary step. As such, you should be prepared to give your parent time to consider what it will mean for them to make the move.
Bringing up the topic in low-stress situations and on a regular basis can help your parent become accustomed to the idea. This is another reason why you want to begin having this conversation early. If your parent is already experiencing falls, dangerous forgetfulness, or other serious symptoms of declining health, you may not have much time to convince them that they need assistance.
Be kind and accommodating as much as possible
If your parent is really resistant to the idea of moving, you can ask them to consider the idea as a favor to you, or to indulge your whims by visiting a potential facility.
Resist the temptation to be authoritative, as hard as that may be. When you’re worried and stressed about a parent’s living situation, it’s understandable if you feel like you have no choice but to be forceful with them.
However, this almost never works, and can actually make your parent resist that much more. Just consider your own feelings: do you prefer to be asked to do something, or told to do something?
Remember that it’s your parent who will have to live in their new situation, not you
While you should certainly have input as to where your parent ends up living, as you may eventually end up providing substantial care or financial support, remember that it’s your parent who has to wake up there every day.
No matter how much you may like a facility, make sure that you take your parent’s considerations seriously. If that means seeing more facilities than you’d planned on, you may just have to make time.
Helping a parent transition into long-term care can be one of the most difficult choices a person has to make. Keeping these tips in mind can help you make this transition go a little more smoothly. For more on long-term care, read our post “Choosing a Long-Term Care Facility for a Loved One.”