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How to Discuss Senior Living Options with Your Parent

Retired parent doing dishes - senior living options can improve retirement.

Talking to a parent about senior living isn’t easy. You may find yourself feeling uncomfortable, awkward, and even guilty at the thought of broaching the subject.

While it’s common for adult children to have concerns over their parent or parents living alone, you may be hesitant to share your feelings with them.

Many families avoid the topic of alternate living rather than discuss it openly. Unfortunately, that may also mean they unintentionally leave decisions to the last minute, such as when an accident or health condition demands a sudden change of setting. Leaving the discussion so late ends up causing worry and stress for all family members, not only for the parent making the change.

You may feel that senior living options are forbidden subject matter because discussing them could insult your parents. You may even feel challenged with the role reversal, that your parents should make decisions and not have plans thrust upon them.

Ultimately, you know that you want what’s best for your parents, and that is why you need to keep the communication lines open. This is not a discussion with immediate, satisfactory results. To ease the minds of all involved, and to make the best decision, you need to start early and stay positive. Here are a few of our best tips for discussing senior living options with your parents.

1. Be Prepared by Proactively Researching 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, with a clear mind and purpose. This will help you keep your emotions balanced and build a foundation 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’s 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, should they require help with medication management, personal care, or 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 another form of dementia. This program is often connected to assisted living communities and it 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 and Your Parent or Parents’ Preferences

Once you understand the options for senior living, you’ll want to consider locations. Ask yourself where your parent or 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 to one- and two-bedroom suites. Memory care and skilled nursing care typically provide care in a private or semi-private residence. What setup would make your parents most comfortable and help them adjust to their new home?

As for when to start doing research, there isn’t one single answer here. 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 to affect their daily lives.

While in-home care is often the first step you take to help your parents maintain quality of life, 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 on. You’ll gain confidence knowing it is possible for your parents to thrive in their older years.

3. Open the Discussion Calmly and Positively

Now that you’ve completed some research, it’s time to open the discussion. When you sit down with your parents, make sure you begin speaking with a calm tone. You want to use positive phrasing that show alternate living as a way to improve their lifestyle.

Careful pacing is also important, since it lets your parents absorb more of the information presented to them. If you try to present too much too soon, you might create a case of information overload and anxiety. This can lead to anger and frustration, where resistance to the idea takes center stage.

4. Focus on the Benefits

Show your parents that making the move would help them settle into a community of warm, friendly neighbors. Rather than experience loneliness or difficulty connecting to the different families around them, they will find themselves in a neighborhood of people with more shared interests. Social opportunities are widely present in retirement communities of all types, and they’re particularly welcoming to any parent hoping for more social interaction.

Explain some of the other 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 more liberating, not less liberating.

Mentally, physically, and emotionally, it’s rewarding to take part in wellness programs and enriching on- and off-site activities. When your parent or parents enjoy easy access to craft studios, workshops, libraries, community rooms, and more, they’ll gain a renewed sense of freedom and contentment.

5. Understand Why Your Parents Wants to Live at Home

To understand your parents’ feelings, you need to put yourself in their shoes. Develop empathy for how your parents feel at this stage of their lives, and remember to leave your judgment behind.

Living in a home of their own likely provides them with a sense of pride and control. There is a sense of accomplishment in maintaining 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.

As you express your concerns to them, make sure you don’t make assumptions. You want to converse, not lecture. Turn the focus back onto your parents, and ask them what they have discussed with one another. Knowing what plans or thoughts they have shared will help you with making the best mutual decision.

6. Learn How to Discuss Finances

Talking about finances can be even more uncomfortable than discussing alternative living arrangements. Many people are quite private about their finances, and they may choose to change the topic to something else. Unfortunately, this is not a good approach. Knowing about your parents’ financial situation is vital to making the best choice.

You and your siblings need to know how much of a buffer your parents have financially. This will help with identifying 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 Concord, NH, won’t be the same as those in Baton Rouge, LA, or those in Colorado Springs, CO. The same goes for assisted living and other forms of wellness support.

If your parents will need financial support, start looking into which options they may have, such as long-term care insurance, and which programs they may qualify for—like Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA’s Aid and Attendance program.

Another important option is private funding split 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 for senior living communities.

7. 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 it’s especially important that you don’t overstep 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 or even impossible 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.

8. Be Open to New and Old Concerns

We in times of rapid change, not just in terms of our own lives, but the world around us. Technology is consistently speeding forward, and in the last few months and years we’ve dealt with ups and downs in the economy as well as a global pandemic that’s affected every one of us.

What’s happening on a local, national, and global scale can bring up concerns that you and your parents need to deal with. COVID-19 is one of the best, most recent examples. As of this writing, we’re still working through the pandemic, which has hit senior living homes hard. News about the pandemic and senior living communities can bring up valid concerns.

When this happens, be open to the discussion. Talk about the concerns and do some additional research on them. In terms of COVID-19, nursing home affects are public record, so you can learn more about how different communities have been affected. At Havenwood Heritage Heights, we take these types of events very seriously, 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 that gives residents and their families peace of mind.

Concord Senior Living: Consider Havenwood Heritage Heights

If you’re researching options for Concord nursing homes and retirement communities, we encourage you to contact us about our beautiful community. Havenwood Heritage Heights is a Concord NH CCRC, offering supportive living for people with differing needs. You can enjoy a virtual tour of our neighborhoods, including photos, floor plans, videos, and 360-degree interactive images. We’re confident your parents will thrive within our campus.

More importantly, we’re here to support you and your family, no matter what you need. Whether it’s a major concern like COVID-19 or just a question about finances, our team is here to help.

By Alli Koch


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