Tough conversations are something that we often want to avoid, whether in work, social situations or with our family members. However, sometimes an adult child finds themselves in a situation where tough conversations are really the only way forward. This is especially common when your aging parent or another older adult needs to move into senior living for their safety – but the individual is reluctant to discuss it.
“It’s natural that Mom or Dad doesn’t want to talk about moving into a senior living community,” says Wayne Vinson, Director of Sales at The Village at Gainesville, a senior living rental community that offers independent living, assisted living and memory support. “For many, it’s an undeniable reality that they are aging and that their independence is waning. That can be a bitter pill to swallow, and many seniors, especially older seniors, will stubbornly resist it for as long as they can.”
Wayne says that senior living has undergone a transformation over the past few decades and can now actually give elderly parents more independence than they currently have living on their own. “Overcoming the negative stereotype about ‘nursing homes’ is the first big step in helping loved ones through those tough conversations and getting them to a place of acceptance,” he says. “While the conversations will never be completely smooth and easy, there are ways to help mitigate the stress and make the discussions positive and beneficial.”
There’s never a bad time to start the discussion – sooner is always better than later. Whether you’re hoping to discuss a move to assisted living, different care options or simply get an idea of what your parents want out of a retirement community, here are some tools for tough conversations about senior living made easy:
Do your research first.
Senior living discussions aren’t something adult children can just casually bring up and have a meaningful conversation about. You’ll want to plan out your talking points, as well as where and how you will bring up the topic to your loved one. Before beginning the conversation, do some preliminary research into the different types of senior living available. Would they prefer a Life Plan Community? Or would it be more beneficial to look at rental communities that are also all-inclusive and provide all levels of care on campus?
You may also wish to research different senior living options in your area, but it’s not necessary for the first conversation. In fact, having brochures and other paraphernalia on hand may actually work against you, as your senior loved one may feel like you’re discussing things behind their back. However, by understanding the basics about senior living (as well as some of the myths and misconceptions), you’ll be better prepared to have a calm, informed and insightful conversation.
Bring your list of concerns.
One good way to actually begin the conversation is by surfacing your own personal concerns and fears to the older adult. By saying things like, “I’m worried about your safety – what would happen if you fell down the stairs and couldn’t get to the phone?” you’re sharing your feelings instead of being demanding or telling them what they should or shouldn’t do. You may also want to gently ask your parents different questions. What sort of things are becoming more difficult for them? What tasks would they like to not have to do any longer? What would they want if they needed to move into senior living? Involving them in the conversation instead of just talking at them will make them a more active participant in the conversation (and thus, a more productive member in the discussion).
Think of it as a series of ongoing conversations.
By broaching the subject before a decision has to be made, it puts less pressure on you and your loved one. It can really be a discussion, where things can be talked about extensively or for just a brief time. Knowing that no decision has to be made right away provides a sense of freedom and can open up more collaboration between the two of you. Frame the discussion as, “let’s just start the conversation so we can plan for the best possible future.”
Understand their point of view.
It can be very frustrating when your parents are being stubborn or actively refusing to discuss anything related to moving into senior living. Before you get too upset with them, take some time to think about the situation from their angle. Moving to senior living is a very definitive step, and even if you or they aren’t actively thinking about it, it is probably the last place they’ll ever move to. That finality, along with the worry about losing independence and other concerns, may be the unspoken reasons why they refuse to talk about the topic. Be sure to listen even more than you talk. Ask questions and try to determine the root cause of their fears and frustrations. You may also want to discuss different options that can allow them to continue to live safely at home for a time.
Keep the tone and subject positive.
When talking about senior living options, it’s important to frame everything in positives in order to help everyone have a better outlook on the situation. Don’t say, for example, “you need to move somewhere because you can’t keep going up and down those steps.” Instead, talk about the benefits your parents would enjoy from moving to a community. Less work, more time, a better social life … your parents or loved one may have a completely incorrect view on what senior living looks like these days. They may be picturing a clinical facility with tile floors and fluorescent lighting, when the reality is more condo-style living, fine dining and an active social calendar.
Offer to go on some tours with them.
If your parents are amenable to it, consider setting up some tours at different communities, just to go look. Be sure they understand that this is not trying to strong-arm them into something; it’s just a chance for them to actually see what a community is really like. At the very least, it’s a good way to get them to open up to the idea of senior living, even if they don’t make the move for a while longer.
With patience, understanding and a little bit of research, having tough conversations with your parents or other older adult loved ones doesn’t have to be painful. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Hopefully, your parents will already be thinking about the value that senior living can bring to their quality of life. In fact, that tough conversation may just be the push they need to take steps to improve their life for the better!
A Legacy of Living Well
If you want the very best for your parent or loved one, consider The Village at Gainesville, a senior living rental community that offers independent living, assisted living and memory support. Contact us online or call us at 352-231-8706 to learn more about our variety of residential options.