You may feel it’s the right time to start talking with a loved one about senior living options but you’re not sure how receptive your loved one—or even the rest of your family—might be. This is a common concern. While your family may feel apprehensive about starting a conversation regarding moving a loved one to a senior living community, it’s an extremely important first step that can not go undiscussed. Like many important conversations, you must come prepared. We’ve put together a few suggestions on how to begin the conversation and keep it moving forward in a positive direction.
Perhaps the single most important step you can take is to start the conversation early, long before there is an actual need to make a move. Take it from Wendy, daughter of a Terracina Grand resident. “Have the conversation early, when your loved ones can still tell you what they want," she says. "When they still have their own opinions about what they’re looking for. Waiting too long to have that conversation can become a big mistake."
Another advantage of starting early is you can take your time. These important decisions are rarely made in a single conversation. Both you and your loved one deserve the chance to consider as many options as possible. Then, the conversation about moving to a senior living community can be a very encouraging discussion. “I don’t have any guilt because they made the choice,” Wendy says regarding her parents.
PICK THE RIGHT PLACE AND TIME
Think about the best time and place to start your conversations. It may work best for you and your loved one to talk over dinner, during a walk, or during another activity you enjoy together. Think about the most comfortable setting and time of day for your loved one. Just making the circumstances comfortable for them can go a long way. Keep your first conversation open and general, knowing that you can always plan for future discussions.
EXPLORE THE MANY OPTIONS AVAILABLE
Gone are the days of the stereotypical “nursing home.” Today’s senior living communities are dynamic and engaging. They provide a full range of activities, services and medical care. As your conversations continue, it’s a good idea to have researched the options available in your area. Have some resources handy such as brochures or websites that profile various communities in your area. This will facilitate discussing the next step, which is to tour senior living communities with your loved one.
“When families start truly looking into senior living options, there’s so much information. That’s great in one regard because there are lots of options, but that can also be very overwhelming. So, frame it as an open conversation just to be proactive, and make sure you’re actively talking about what’s important to mom and dad,” says Dani, previous director of sales & marketing at The Commons on Marice.
When families begin looking into senior living options, prospective residents may feel that having conversations about senior living means that the move to a community is going to happen sooner than they'd like. But that’s not necessarily the case. It’s more about knowing the many options available and maintaining an ongoing, open conversation about those options. That’s what will help your family be proactive and better prepared if and when the time for a move comes.
WHEN EMOTIONS ARISE
Even with the best planning, these can be emotional conversations. While you’re having them, it’s extremely important to remain respectful of your loved one’s thoughts and feelings. Actively listen to their concerns and try to put yourself in their place. For example, if they’ve lived in their current home for many years, it can be unsettling, even frightening, to think of moving.
If a conversation becomes especially emotional, it’s probably best to stop for the time being. Reassure your loved one that you can continue at a later date with something like, “You know, this isn’t something we need to decide today. Let’s both think about things and talk again in a few days.” Then, find something that you can enjoy together like a walk, a cup of tea, or watching a favorite show. This can take the edge off the conversation while still keeping you positively connected to each other.
Although it might be a difficult conversation to have, you'll be glad you had it when the time comes to move your loved one to senior living.