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5 Strategies for Talking About Assisted Living with Aging Parents

- Friday, July 12, 2019
Spring Arbor, SC, NC, VA, TN

Have the discussion as early as possible, preferably before a health crisis strikes. Having the conversation before a health emergency occurs can afford you and your loved one the opportunity to methodically discuss plans to tackle a host of issues, like downsizing and getting rid of extra possessions, figuring out finances and gathering medical records. Your loved one's wishes will be respected if you have a plan in place. If a medical emergency arises, whether it's from a fall or from complications related to a chronic health problem, you or another family member may have to make a series of important medical and financial decisions. If those decisions are made relatively quickly in the middle of a crisis, they may or may not align with your loved one's wishes.

Look for an organic window of opportunity. Rather than bringing up the idea of transitioning to assisted living seemingly out of nowhere, look for a natural opportunity to raise the idea. For example, say your mother falls and sustains minor to moderate injuries that don't require hospitalization. This situation would be a good time to explain that you can't respond to such events every time, particularly if you don't live nearby and have kids of your own. Speaking to a loved one about their need for assisted living doesn't have to be a difficult conversation. Especially if you're sparking the conversation after a minor event like a non-major fall or time when you were unable to provide the immediate support your loved one needed. This conversation is about reconciling expectations. Your parent's needs have to be reliably met. If you live far away or work full-time, explain why a change like an assisted living community should at least be considered and looked at together.

Listen carefully to your loved one's concerns. Don't try to minimize your loved one's anxieties about the prospect of making the transition from being on his or her own to moving into an assisted living facility. It's very important to acknowledge and offer understanding that your loved one is fearful about the life change of moving into an assisted living community, and to offer understanding about [his or her] trepidation. Rather than putting forth a sales pitch, listen and ask lots of questions. This approach makes it clear that you want to follow your loved one's wishes.

Don't issue orders. Keep in mind, unless he or she is mentally incapacitated, your loved one gets to decide where and how to live. Issuing orders or ultimatums attacks your loved one's sense of agency and could make him or her feel dishonored and defensive. Legally and ethically, it's their life and they get to choose. You should deal with your family in a loving way, and that's not a loving thing to do.

Let your loved one see what assisted living looks like. Ask if he or she is willing to tour assisted living facilities. Use the [assisted living] staff as a resource to help families with these difficult conversations. We should be a partner in the process and help foster a sense of 'connectedness. Visiting an assisted living community could ease some of your loved one's anxieties.

Keep in mind the discussion may be a process, not an event. Your loved one may need multiple conversations to reach a decision, and that's OK, given the stakes. Most people prefer to age in place. However, we can [and] should try to ease their transitions [from home to assisted living]. That may mean a series of conversations, not a single talk.

For more information about Senior Living, contact Spring Arbor.

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