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How to Discuss Moving to an Assisted Living Community with Your Parents

It’s common for adult children to have concerns about their parents living alone. They may need access to medical services because of a chronic health condition or they may benefit from memory care services as they navigate early symptoms of dementia.

Nevertheless, many families avoid the topic of alternate living rather than discuss it openly because of emotions like fear, sadness, and anger. Unfortunately, that may mean decisions are left to the last minute, such as when an accident or fall demands more intensive support. Delaying the discussion causes worry and stress for all family members, not just the parent making the change.

To make the best decision for your parents, you need to start early, stay positive, and keep communication lines open. This is not a discussion with immediate, satisfactory results; however, a little preparation can help. Here are a few of our best tips for discussing senior living options with your parents.

10 Tips for Discussing Assisted Living Options

1. Proactively Research Housing Options

Before you even broach the subject, do some research. Aim to start reviewing options in your free time, or if your parents live with you, pick a time when they are otherwise occupied. You want to head into the discussion well-informed and with a clear purpose. This will help you keep your emotions balanced so you can advise your parents successfully.

Consider all housing options, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing. You should look at separate communities for each living option, as well as those that offer health support as a continuing care retirement community or CCRC.

Briefly, here is what you need to know about each option:

  • Independent living communities are best suited to active adults aged 55+ who wish to enjoy more time with social pursuits and less time handling home upkeep.
  • Assisted living communities provide adults with daily living assistance such as medication management, personal care, and housekeeping chores. These communities promote continued independence to ensure quality of life.
  • Memory care helps adults with memory conditions like cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, or other forms of dementia. This program is often connected to assisted living communities and continues daily living assistance in a secure setting with 24-hour supervision.
  • Skilled nursing provides 24-hour nursing care in addition to medication management, personal care, and nutrition monitoring with licensed medical staff on-site.

2. Consider Locations

Once you understand the options for senior living, you will want to consider locations. Ask yourself where your parents would love to live. Think about any cities that hold a special memory. Think about whether they would want to live central to all of their children or closer to one in particular.

You should also consider housing preferences. This may include a variety of floor plans for independent and assisted living, from studio apartments to one- and two-bedroom suites. Memory care and skilled nursing care are typically provided in private or semi-private residences. Try to consider what would make your parents most comfortable and help them adjust to their new home.

But when should you begin this research? It depends. Everyone is unique and has unique needs. Some parents can live in their own home for longer while others need assistance suddenly after a serious accident or as gradual health changes begin affecting their daily lives. While in-home care is often the first step you can take, it can become too stressful, costly, or ineffective as time goes on. The best course of action is to begin your research for senior living options early. You will gain confidence knowing your parents can thrive in their older years.

3. Build a Support System 

Navigating the discussion alone can be tough, so be sure to reach out for support. Your siblings, spouse, children, and even other senior family members can lend a hand by speaking to your parents.

Be sure to talk closely with your siblings to get their thoughts on assisted living. You should also take the time to agree on how you want to approach the subject with your parents. Whether you talk to your parents together or individually, it is important to present a unified front without making your parents feel pressured to leave home.

Your parents’ doctor can also be an advocate. If you can speak to their doctor without violating privacy concerns, you can talk through the medical benefits of assisted living. Ask them about the level of care they think your parents need now and what they may need access to in the future. If they agree that an assisted living community could help improve quality of life, they may be willing to discuss the topic with your parents as well.

4. Spark the Discussion Calmly

The best way to get your parents comfortable with the idea of moving to an assisted living community is to make talking about their future a comfortable subject. You can plant seeds whenever you see a good opportunity. For example, if your parent has been complaining about how difficult it is to keep up with household chores or if they recently suffered an injury, you could mention how assisted living could provide extra help and minimize risks.

When you sit down with your parents, make sure you speak in a calm tone. You want to use positive phrasing that illustrates alternate living as a way of improving their lifestyle. Careful pacing is also important since it lets your parents absorb the information presented to them. If you try to present too much too soon, you might create anxiety. This can lead to anger, frustration, and resistance to the idea of change.

Also, be aware of your language. Certain words and phrases like “facility” or “nursing home” can carry a negative connotation. When speaking to your parents about the idea of making the move, use more accurate and appropriate terms like “retirement-style living” or “retirement community.” Most modern continuing care retirement communities like Havenwood Heritage Heights take pride in providing a beautiful campus, state-of-the-art facilities, and a welcoming sense of community.

5. Consider Your Parents’ Perspective

Try to understand where your parents are coming from. Develop empathy for how they feel at this stage of their lives and remember to leave your judgment behind. Living in a home of their own may provide them with a sense of pride and control. There is a feeling of accomplishment in homeownership, even if your parents are beginning to struggle with the task. It may not be easy for them to accept a change in their abilities.

Recognize that fears regarding aging and losing independence should be treated delicately. Let your parents know that they are not being “shuffled away” to quietly live out their remaining years. Instead, tell your parents that you want them to enjoy retirement in a comfortable, safe place. Reassure them that you and your family will continue to be a part of their lives and that modern assisted living communities are designed to help residents retain as much independence as possible

As you discuss assisted living options, do not assume you know how your parents feel. You want this to be a conversation, not a lecture. Turn the focus back onto your parents and ask them what they think about the situation. Knowing what plans or thoughts they have will help you make the best decision.

6. Help Your Parents Feel Comfortable

The idea of moving to an assisted living community is much more frightening for seniors who have little to no experience with them in real life. Just as the idea of entering the workforce can make your head spin as a young adult, the fear of the unknown is natural for your parents. It is up to you to show them that there is nothing to be afraid of.

Tour local assisted living communities with your parents so they can get an idea of what their future could be. This will also help minimize some of their stress and fears. When they get a chance to see the welcoming environment firsthand, they may quickly change their tune.

7. Focus on the Benefits

Show your parents that by making the move, they will be settling into a community of warm, friendly people. Rather than feel lonely or isolated, they will feel engaged by neighbors with shared interests. Myriad social opportunities are also present in retirement communities. No matter their hobby—reading, knitting, exercising—a retirement community likely offers opportunities to pursue that passion alongside others.

Explain the amenities and services that retirement communities offer as well. Contrary to what some people believe, moving from a home to a retirement community can be liberating. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, it is rewarding to take part in wellness programs and enriching activities. When your parents enjoy easy access to craft studios, workshops, libraries, community rooms, and more, they will gain a renewed sense of freedom and contentment.

8. Learn How to Discuss Finances

One of the biggest concerns that your parents may have regarding assisted living is the cost. They may be concerned that the costs will be too high or that they will quickly run out of resources. Unfortunately, talking about finances can be even more uncomfortable than discussing alternative living arrangements. However, understanding your parents’ financial situation is vital to making the best choice.

Understanding what financial resources are available will help you identify the support level they can afford as well as the cities and regions that suit their price range. The cost of senior living options varies substantially. For example, costs for independent senior living in a rural area will be significantly less than costs in an urban area. Costs also vary depending on what level of support is being offered. Assisted living, for instance, generally costs less than skilled nursing care.

If your parents will need financial support, start looking into options like long-term care insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or the Veteran Affairs Aid and Attendance program. Another option is to split costs among all siblings. Make sure the discussion is one in which all siblings have the chance to share their thoughts and discuss how they wish to help cover costs.

9. Accept a Longer Timeframe for Discussions

Your parents will likely need time to warm up to the idea of senior living. Shifting from homeownership to a retirement community is a big step. Change is not easy at any age, but you must avoid overstepping authority when it comes to your parents’ daily living.

Keep communication open to encourage your parents to express themselves. Keep your parents informed and listen to their thoughts. They have years of experience and know themselves best. At the same time, realize their limitations. Making decisions can become challenging when a parent lives with a cognitive impairment such as dementia. In situations like this, you may need to take more control over determining the best supportive living environment.

10. Be Open to New and Old Concerns

We live in times of rapid change, not just in terms of our own lives, but the world around us. What is happening on a local, national, and global scale can bring up concerns that you and your parents need to deal with. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most recent examples.

The pandemic hit senior living homes hard; this can bring up valid concerns during a discussion with your parents. First and foremost, be open-minded. Talk about their concerns and do some additional research. In terms of COVID-19, nursing home case numbers are public record, so you can learn more about how different communities have been affected.

At Havenwood Heritage Heights, we take these events very seriously and are dedicated to updating our residents and their families daily. For more information, see our most recent COVID-19 updates. Senior living communities like ours can help address your concerns and handle even the most serious events through preparation and diligence.

Concord Senior Living: Consider Havenwood Heritage Heights

If you are researching options for Concord retirement communities, we encourage you to contact us. At Havenwood Heritage Heights, we are proud to provide a continuum of care for older adults that is designed to change as their needs do. This means that your parents can choose to live as independently as possible depending on their lifestyle and health needs. We offer independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing care, short-term rehabilitation, and memory care services.

On our website, you can enjoy a virtual tour of our neighborhoods with photos, floor plans, videos, and 360-degree interactive images. We are confident your parents will thrive on our campus. More importantly, we are here to support you and your family, no matter what you need. Whether it is a major concern like COVID-19 or just a question about finances, our team is here to help.

By Mike Wall

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