Having the Talk

Talking about Senior Living with your loved one

It’s never an easy topic to think about or discuss. So, how do you go about addressing the need to downsize or the need for senior living with your parent(s)?

For most senior adults it is a discussion met with resistance, and children avoid bringing it up until a time of crisis arises. No one wants to think about the next steps because of your parent(s) possible reaction or the thought of a future without them. Being prepared before a time of crisis arises can remove some of the anxiety and worry from the situation.

The following steps can help reduce frustration and anxiety and assist in creating a healthier discussion:

1. Make it an ongoing discussion – “I know this is hard to talk about ….”
If your elders can live alone and don’t currently need the care provided by a senior living community or skilled nursing facility, you can easily talk about the future in a non-threatening way. The discussion should be a process over time, without your parent feeling like you may be ganging up on them.

Example: Start the conversation at the kitchen table by saying, “I know this is hard to talk about, but I want to be sure as your child that I honor your wishes. For me to do that, I need to know what they are, so I can be there and help you along the way. We don’t have to decide anything today, but let’s start the discussion, so we can all think about it and plan for later.”

2. Keep it positive, calm, and consider it from their perspective.
Unfortunately, discussing senior living and the possibility of it, may be inevitable. You do not want it to escalate into an argument or defensive discussion so be sure to talk about the positives and make sure your tone is positive, calm and pleasant as well.

Example: When discussing senior living, focus on a “community” and what is provided in the services and social opportunities. Always listen and validate feelings. Independence is always going to be important to them; acknowledge that.

3. Identify the unknowns.“Mom and Dad, both of you are OK now. But what should we do if that changes?”
“Mom and Dad, both of you are OK now. But what should we do if that changes?”

Opening a discussion with a question like this will give control to them and open the door to discussing things like possibly selling their home and moving to a no maintenance accommodation or a senior community. It will be a challenging discussion, but it can help you learn about your parents’ desires for each other and what they have talked about among themselves.

Example: Acknowledge that this is a difficult topic and that you recognize you can’t control what happens but let them know you want to hear what they want

4. Acknowledge why they want to stay at home
Your loved ones know deep down that if they make a move, it is likely their final residence which is a difficult thing to acknowledge, let alone discuss.

“Even if they can’t articulate that or admit it to themselves, the underlying reason that elders don’t want to move is that they feel they are going there to die,” Sheri L. Samotin, founder and president of Lifebridge Solutions, a Naples, Fla., company that provides family transition planning, caregiver coaching and other services, explains. “Even if they know, it’s the right thing and good for them, it’s not easy to acknowledge that you’re at the twilight of your life. You’re facing your own mortality.”

They also may be unprepared to have their role with you change, from them taking care of you to you taking care of them, creating a sense of losing independence.

Example: When talking, keep their concerns in your mind during the discussion. Again, acknowledge their independence by letting them decide on when, where and with whom they age with. It may be possible to remain in their homes longer by hiring help to clean the house, food shop and do yard work, all the while keeping safety in mind.

5. Begin researching and get to know the options available.
Learn about the different types of senior living communities—Assisted Living, smaller retirement communities, like the Fitch Home, and Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC’s) where residents can easily age in place and transition to a nursing home as they age, all in once community.

Costs will determine a lot of what the options are for your parents as well as their financial situation. Discuss your parents’ financial situation and any options for funding (such as long-term care insurance or special programs for veterans). When researching a community, make sure it emulates their personality and also research the community’s reputation and safety reports.

Example: Select a few varieties of communities to tour and be sure to have your parents join you. Since finances are important in determining where they can live, it is important to discuss this with them ahead of time. Finances may be a very private matter for some senior parents, but you could start the conversation by saying, “To help us fulfill your wishes and needs, we need to have an idea of what you will be able to afford.

6. What if they have been diagnosed with an illness?
If your senior parent has been diagnosed with Dementia, Parkinson’s or another disease, make sure to talk to their Dr. and learn about the progression of the illness. Most likely, this could impact their ability to stay in their home and may determine their needs and the best type of senior living community for them.

Example: Sit with your parents and talk about what you have learned about their diagnosis from their doctor and how services in an individual community could help them have a safe environment as well as add to their quality of life. It is important to find the community that can meet their present and future healthcare needs.

In summary, having a discussion about any kind of life transition is difficult. It requires deep empathy, listening skills, and some preparedness. The sooner you can begin preparing yourself for the conversation the easier the conversation will be. Get informed, reach out to others who may of already gone through a similar situation, and begin considering all the scenarios that might occur so you can be ready.

At The Fitch Home, we strive to help make the transition as smooth as possible, and we hope that this helps.

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