Let’s face it, most of us don’t feel as old as we are and believe we can still do the things we’ve always been able to do. The aches and pains of aging and declining independence are hard pills to swallow. So, how do you begin to broach the subject of assisted living with your loved one who may be in this same denial? The best thing you can do is be well-prepared. Here are a few do’s and don’ts that might help:
Don’t wait. If you wait until there is a crisis, such as a serious fall or health crisis, options may be limited to whatever is available and it may not be a good fit. The earlier you make plans, and the more information you gather, the better prepared you’ll be and the more choices you’ll have.
Don’t schedule a time. Rather than making the conversation feel like an appointment, look for opportunities for a natural conversation to take place. The more matter-of-fact you can be, the less defensive your loved one will become.
Do use real examples. To do this, you need to first ask yourself why you think your loved one needs extra assistance. Has there been a recent fall? Have they gotten lost in a normally familiar area? Has there been a change in hygiene? Are they losing weight because they aren’t eating properly? Give specific reasons why you are concerned about their well-being and explain how you believe that a supportive community can help.
Do validate their concerns. Let your loved one express their concerns about moving into a community setting. Perhaps they are concerned about the 60 years of possessions they won’t be able to take with them. This is a chance to reassure them that their family is here to help. Encouragement that going through their belongings can be a meaningful task for the family, and that the opportunity to donate items to those that can use them can provide a sense of comfort knowing that their possessions are valued.
Do be gentle with their fear. Even if you or your loved one aren’t able to articulate it, the deepest fear may be the realization that moving from their home means they have reached the end of their life. This can be frightening. A reminder that many people move to assisted living and spend years able to enjoy the freedom of no longer having household responsibilities, a feeling of safety, and the joy of engaging with their peers.
Do stay calm. A parent or spouse may feel attacked if they sense that you are getting frustrated or angry as you discuss their concerns. Stay calm and remember that language matters. “Community” sounds more pleasant than “facility,” and discussing the “amenities” offered rather than “assistance with daily living” keeps the focus on the wonderful service they’ll receive rather than the fact that they need the service.
Do your homework. Unless your loved one is mentally incapacitated, they get to make the decision about the community where they chose to live. Prepare ahead of time with examples of the many types of communities to choose from and the locations. Of course, you may have a preference of place and setting which you can promote, but ultimately, it is their choice.
Do ask for help. If you are having trouble convincing your loved one of the benefits of assisted living, or their health requires swifter action, ask for the help of their physician, a trusted friend, their minister, or a professional care manager.
Do be patient. This may not be a one-time conversation. It may take several conversations to convince someone that they need more assistance. However, if you are truly concerned about your loved one’s ability to live safely at home, keep the conversation going. Set-up appointments to visit communities and make it an enjoyable event, perhaps stopping for lunch or some shopping while you’re out.