How to Start the Difficult Conversation About Assisted Living

Starting the conversation with your parent or loved one about senior care options can be emotional and difficult. Unfortunately, there’s not necessarily a universal sign for when it’s the right time — which can make the discussion even more challenging. There are, however, some signals that may point towards senior living as a viable and preferable alternative to living alone.

Obviously, a form of dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis can certainly lead to assisted care — but it’s not always that simple.

Perhaps it’s repeated falls, a lack of close family assistance, the loss of a life partner, or even chronic health conditions that are becoming unmanageable. Even with one or a combination of these issues, it’s not always a simple choice. 

While trying to find the right signs can be difficult enough, starting the conversation about senior care options can seem all but impossible. 

Typically, it’s the children who are responsible for bringing up this contentious topic — and more often than not, it’s put off until the last minute. It’s far better to be proactive than reactive when it comes to assisted living. The sooner the conversation is had, the more time and options you’ll have so that you can discover an ideal future for your parent or loved one. 

We’re going to go over some tips that will make the conversation and transition less stressful for you and your loved one. 

1. It’s Never Too Soon to Start

One of the issues we see all too often is that the conversation gets buried until something drastic occurs. While this can certainly be the “wakeup call” for some — it’s far better to start the discussion early and keep it open. 

You can plant seeds or simply use challenges as a springboard for conversations about the future. Whether it’s when a parent is struggling with simple household tasks or complaining about feeling alone — there is always an opportunity to talk about the possibility of senior care options. 

Remember, it’s a conversation and not a demand. Keep the dialogue open and inviting by listening to what they have to say and how they feel about senior communities. If you’re going to plant these seeds, it’s better to do so by using the pros and benefits to show how much it can improve their life or make their day easier. Assisted living and even independent living communities exist to make their life easier and safer — so be sure to lead with the opportunities for ease rather than their shortcomings or risks being a burden to you. 

2. Use the Right Language 

Many of our parents are fearful of phrases like “nursing homes” or even “assisted living.” These places seem restrictive and like a restrictive environment rather than an opportunity to live their life to the fullest. 

Perhaps the best wording to use is community.  

It’s inviting and also accurate. Assisted living or independent living communities are, first and foremost, communities. They are vibrant and social living arrangements that offer a wide range of benefits for seniors. Yes, they certainly have nursing support and other health-related services baked into their operations, but they’re also full of opportunities for active living and socializing. 

Social communities have so many incredible benefits for seniors. This includes things such as:

  • Reducing cognitive decline 
  • Supporting a healthy immune system and cardiovascular health 
  • Decreasing depressive symptoms 
  • Boosting self-esteem and self-worth 
  • Longer lifespan 
  • And more 

Doubling down on the community aspect and showcasing that they would be around peers with similar interests and schedules can be a great way to effectively conduct the conversation. 

3. Get Others to Help 

Tough conversations like this are better conducted with the help of family and friends. If you have a close-knit family with lots of siblings, you can certainly tag-team your efforts. Talk with your brothers or sisters about how to best have these types of conversations and work together to discover the best way to introduce the topic or even choose the right community. 

Close friends can also be great allies during these conversations by advocating for a senior living community. If they have friends who are currently in senior communities, ask for some help with explaining all of the benefits. 

4. Tour As Many Communities As Possible 

One of the advantages of starting the conversation early and keeping the discussion open is the opportunity to tour several communities and giving your parent options. 

Tours offer a window into a potential future living arrangement. They’re a great way to see what a community’s team is like, how happy current residents are, dining options, and so much more. 

They’re also a great chance to ask important questions. We’ve covered some of these inquiries before in our 10 Questions to Ask a Potential Assisted Living Facility, like: 

How many residents does the community have?

What type of activities are available? 

What type of training does their team complete?

In addition to touring a senior community, it’s also great to get a sense of the community-at-large. Take parents around town and to local eateries — whatever you can do to relieve any stress or uncertainty about the unknown. 

5. It’s a Possibility (Not a Finality) 

Another benefit of “not waiting until the last minute” is the ability to approach the conversation as a possibility — not a decision that was made for them. Telling someone that you’re moving them to some unknown location without prior knowledge or time to prepare can be scary. So, it’s always better to discuss the feasibility and opportunities of senior communities rather than a finite decision that you’re making for them. 

You can also include alternative options like home nursing care, moving in with family, emergency alarm or life-alert systems, housekeepers, or offer a wide range of senior communities to help them demonstrate their input in the matter. 

6. Don’t Dismiss What They’ll Miss 

Leaving a home they’ve lived in for decades or a neighborhood they’re familiar with can be emotionally taxing. It can also be frightening to feel like they won’t have the same freedom of access to family. Discover their concerns and offer the right reassurances. 

Many of our parents are worried that they won’t be able to see the ones they love or that they’re being removed from what they know. Find out about what they are anxious or worried about and find solutions to bridge that gap. Whether it’s bringing their favorite possessions, their pet’s future, or figuring out what happens to all of their belongings that can’t make the trip with them — it’s all about offering the right reassurances. 

There’s No Time Like the Present 

The sooner you begin the difficult conversation about assisted living communities, the better. It’s not a simple discussion, but it’s one that can be made far easier by not waiting until the last minute. The longer you give the idea of a senior community time to marinate, the less of a shock the decision will be. 

Senior living doesn’t need to be a scary transition. In fact, it can be an exciting time for moving into a community with peers who share the same interests, hobbies, worries, and beliefs about life.