How Do I Talk to My Loved Ones About Senior Living?
Some of the most important conversations we need to have with the seniors we love are often the most difficult ones. When discussing the move to senior living with your older loved ones, it’s important to be prepared. Your mom or dad will most likely have questions and objections related to the move. It’s a big decision and it is important they are involved! The wisdom in planning means having options versus having no or severely limited options. How do we begin to have these much-needed conversations?
1. Recognize the Risk of Waiting
We tend to wait to have important life planning conversations. There are several reasons for that.
- We fear rejection.
- There is discomfort when speaking the truth into another’s life .
- We think someone else can or should do it .
The earlier you start your discussions, the better.
Encourage your older loved ones to make a decision when they have the power to determine their future and enjoy all the amenities a senior living community offers. By waiting, they limit their options and risk leaving the decision to someone else.
2. Recognize the Signs That a Conversation Is Necessary
- Your loved one’s medication is in disorder.
- There are dents in the car or accidents.
- Changes in appearance or the condition of their home .
- A new chronic illness diagnosis or failing health.
- Appointments are being missed.
- Stacks of unopened mail .
- Bills are not being paid.
- No evidence of meal preparation and/or an empty refrigerator.
3. Understand How to Set the Stage
Typically, it is best to limit the conversation to immediate family only. A blend of in town and out of town family members is helpful. If it makes sense, it is okay to invite your spiritual leader. Here are some other tips to consider:
- Ensure that all family members presenting are on the same page .
- Have a specific agenda and assignments .
- Have facts and observations ready to discuss.
- Do not talk over one another and make sure to listen!
- Do not have the conversation at a family function or holiday setting.
- Provide a comfortable setting and seating.
- Ensure no interruptions (cell phones, TV , etc.).
- Be prepared.
4. Know What to Say
- Acknowledge the sensitive topic at hand.
- Say “I love you, I am so very concerned when I see this, we need to talk please.”
- Use humor when possible.
- Stay calm, avoid anger, and keep your volume down.
- Be respectful.
- Gently present the facts. Show them how moving can be beneficial.
- Be curious and ask follow up questions.
- Remark on points of agreement – and use as stepping stones.
- Accept compromise when needed to build a plan.
- Expect & accept that a repeat conversation(s) may be needed.
- Research the common objections older adults have about senior living and how to overcome them.
5. Know What Not to Say
- Avoid demands.
- Avoid personal attacks, accusations, or yelling.
- Avoid grouping all important conversations at once.
- Avoid being emotional.
- Avoid any patronizing speech.
Don’t let your conversation turn into an argument!
6. Know When to “Wrap It Up”
- Hugs (as acceptable).
- Express appreciation for having the conversation.
- Summarize action steps.
- Do your part (What is your assignment?).
- Don’t lose momentum. Schedule a tour and go together.
The 3 “R”s: Regroup, Re-evaluate & Respect
If your loved ones are adamently opposed to exploring a move, agree to disagree. Then, review your approach. Would the idea of moving be more palatable coming from one of their trusted friends or advisors? Perhaps they could invite your loved ones to accompany them when they visit a community. Maybe the advisor could help your loved ones understand the financial or lifestyle benefits of making a move.
Your loved ones may choose to move right away or they may never agree unless circumstances force them into a change. Regardless, it’s important to respect their decision. Your relationship with your loved ones is important. Keep in mind that another opportunity for discussion could be right around the corner.
We’re Here to Help
Don’t wait until a crisis hits and the choice to move to a senior living community isn’t yours, or theirs, to make. Start talking with your older loved ones now and schedule tours so all of you can see senior living for yourselves.