The senior living conversation is one that’s often dreaded by adult children and parents alike. It’s never easy to see your parent needing help with everyday tasks or to observe their health declining – it’s certainly not easy for them either! The senior living conversation makes it all too real and that’s scary, we get it. But there are many benefits to senior living beyond the care these communities provide that can truly help your parent make the most of life, not just physically but socially and emotionally as well. The question is, what’s the best way to communicate that to your parent? These tips can help make your senior living conversation more positive and productive.
Start Sooner Rather Than Later
More often than not it seems like the senior living conversation begins after a crisis or other immediate need, which can make it much harder for everyone as the emotion and stress level is already high. However, by planning ahead and starting the conversation sooner, your parent has more time to fully process their feelings and begin to embrace this new opportunity. Plus, they can be more involved in choosing the senior living community which can also help them feel more comfortable with the decision.
Recognize It’s More Than One Conversation
Although the senior living conversation is often referred to in the singular, it really should be more of an ongoing discussion. Realistically the decision of whether or not to move to senior living is too far-reaching and emotional for one sitting. Plus, you don’t want your parent to feel pressured or for your family to rush into a decision you’ll regret later!
Planning ahead, as we mentioned above, also allows time for more discussion. During this time, make sure to have patience with your parent; thinking of yourself in their shoes (as you may well be someday) can help. Letting them know you’re on their side and really listening to their concerns, fears, and wants for the future can also help foster open, honest discussions. As will your reassurance that you’ll still be just as much of a part of each other’s lives after the move.
Create a Comfortable Setting
Keep in mind that when it comes to the senior living conversation, it’s not just what you say, but also the setting as well as who’s involved. As such, select a time when you and your parent are free from distractions to allow the conversation to go at its own pace. Also, consider a place where you have privacy, yet is also comfortable for everyone, especially your parent. Remember you don’t have to do this alone, nor should you, so make sure to reach out to family members to get their input and ask them to join the conversation whether in person or via video chat if necessary.
Communication Tips for the Senior Living Conversation
When it gets to the actual conversation make sure you’ve prepared for what and how you will communicate as well. Consider these communication tips to help:
● Know what you want to say – These discussions are not something you wing, otherwise they won’t be as productive. That’s why it’s often helpful to write down what you want to get across ahead of time. It makes it easier to stay focused and you won’t forget anything should the conversation become heated or emotional.
● Be collaborative – The worst thing you can do is dictate a plan to your parent. It will immediately make them defensive. Instead, start by asking questions about their needs and wants for the future. This makes it easier for them to open up to you. Questions during the senior living conversation may include:
o How can we as a family support your independence?
o Would you prefer having meals prepared instead of having to cook?
o How do you feel about driving now?
o How often are you able to connect with friends?
o Are there any new hobbies you’d like to try or things you’d like to learn?
o Do you have enough opportunities to stay active and have fun?
o Are the house and yard becoming more than you want to manage?
o How comfortable are you with managing your personal care and/or medications independently?
o What concerns do you have about the future?
● Focus on the positives – As we mentioned, there’s much more to senior living than the care that’s provided. In talking through the questions above you likely have a much better understanding of what would appeal to your parent, and how a senior living community might help them get more out of life. Focusing on positives such as freedom from chores and home maintenance, a lifestyle that’s active, engaging, and connected, conveniences and amenities that make them feel pampered, a focus on wellbeing that helps them thrive, and the peace of mind that support is always at hand can go a long way in convincing them to move.
Have Them See for Themselves
Lastly, often seeing is believing so plan a tour of the senior living communities you’re considering, attend events, and/or have lunch with your parent there if possible. This will allow you both to get a true feel for the environment, talk to residents, and get all your questions answered. Then, you can continue your senior living conversation after!