Even if you know that moving your loved one into an assisted living
, continuing care
or other type of retirement community is the best option, broaching the subject isn't easy.
You may want to push off this talk as long as possible, but if your parent has a growing health concern you can't handle, you can't wait.
While it might not be a simple or even pleasant discussion, there are ways to make things go more smoothly.
Look for Red Flags at Home
First, you want to fully understand your loved one's living situation. If they're too proud, they might hide difficulties--so it's best to see for yourself.
Observe your loved one's behavior when you visit, says Linda Wooge, L.P.N., director of Asbury Methodist Village at Home, a continuing care community in Maryland.
Look for signs they may need help, such as the following:
- Is the house a mess because it's too difficult to clean?
- Is there enough food in the kitchen? Are they avoiding having to shop at the grocery store?
- Does your loved one have friends in the area? Are they becoming isolated?
Make note of any problems and consider the likelihood they can worsen as your loved one ages.
Scout Out a Good Retirement Community
Joseph Tirio, a certified senior advisor and president of Monarch Senior Care, an in-home care provider in Illinois, says it's a good idea to visit a few local facilities beforehand, making note of the things your loved one may like.
Look for these popular amenities:
If you can find things your loved one enjoys at a retirement community, they may be more receptive to the idea.
Also, keep your loved one's difficulties in mind, making note of what the facility does to help in those areas.
Listen to Your Loved One's Concerns
The Rev. Jane McCarthy, chaplain for Wesley Enhanced Living continuing care retirement communities in Pennsylvania, advises encouraging your loved one to express how they're feeling about their changing physical and mental abilities, sensitively acknowledging their sense of loss and struggle.
Listen to what your loved one tells you and carefully show them how being in a retirement community could help solve those problems.
For example, if their house is a mess
, explain that someone else will do the cleaning. You can also bring up the positive aspects of going to a continuing care community,
which can accommodate their changing needs.
Use the communities you visited as examples, but try to allow them other potential choices.
Have a Calm, Rational Discussion
This talk can be stressful
for all parties. Do your part by keeping cool.
"Be aware of your own feelings of guilt and try to maintain a sense of objectivity," says McCarthy. "This will lower your stress level, making for a more productive conversation. Try to speak calmly, slowly and in a compassionate tone."
If it's a parent you're talking to, remember: You're still their kid, and they will probably treat you like one. Even so, don't lose your objectivity or compassion.
"Don't get sucked into the emotional games that may be used when they feel they're being backed into a corner," says McCarthy.
Talk About Your Own Situation
You and your loved one are part of each other's lives, so tell them how this is affecting you. McCarthy says to share with them how you're worried about the dangers they may face, living alone.
If you have been the primary caregiver and it has been difficult
for you, be honest about that as well. You may have had a hard time simply enjoying one another's company because of all those extra responsibilities.
Explain to them that this change could allow both of you more quality time to spend together, McCarthy says.
"That would be a blessing to both of you," she adds.