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How to Speak to Aging Parents about Senior Care

son and aging mom sitting outside talking

Tips to Speak with Parents About Senior Care.

As we live longer, more of us will face difficult conversations with aging parents about senior living communities like Atlantic Shores that offer assisted living, memory care, and moving to what a parent may perceive as a nursing home. Spoiler alert: This is a conversation most of us would prefer to avoid. It actually consists of many conversations that can alter family dynamics and divide siblings. The emotional stakes are high, but the potential for a happy, positive outcome is there too. How you go about talking through these issues and how you speak to your parents are as important as the decisions you make.

Tapping the resources of Atlantic Shores

Through the years, Atlantic Shores has helped many families navigate a loved one’s transition from living at home to being part of a community, either in independent living or residential care. We understand the challenges of communicating effectively with elderly parents and can offer help and guidance to you and your family. This post distills much of that experience and guidance to help get you headed in the right direction.

How it goes in many families
Too often, people wait until a health scare, such as a fall or hospitalization, prompts them to speak and act. At this moment, they find they have to plunge into researching what their parents can afford, what’s geographically feasible, and what makes sense for their family. Unfortunately, this type of research should have happened before initiating discussions with a parent. In many cases, therefore, people are playing catch-up from the beginning.

Next, a large family meeting involving siblings and extended family may hastily be convened. Predictably, many elderly parents feel intimidated or overwhelmed as family members close in around them. It’s often better if one adult child — perhaps the oldest, the most focused, or the one who just seems to be the go-to person — takes the lead and represents the collective wishes of the rest of the family.

This person should begin by listing everything the family feels is relevant and important to the situation. They should review it all with the parent, adding the parent’s thoughts, and prioritizing the list to reflect what’s most important for the welfare and happiness of the older loved one. They should then use this refined list as a starting point to evaluate the pros and cons of communities being considered. Feeling comfortable with a decision to move into senior care is so important, but no one will feel comfortable if someone doesn’t do the necessary homework. In order for healthy, productive conversations to take place, the process should start long before the day arrives that Mom needs to move to assisted living.

How to speak with aging parents
Certain conversations — the loss of driving privileges, the need for ongoing care, financial control of assets, and potentially relocating to a new residence — are never easy for families. The following principles will help you talk through these tough issues and work toward a resolution that you and your parents can live with.

Feel what they’re feeling
Empathy is a necessary ingredient to all effective communication but perhaps never more than when discussing living arrangements with an older loved one. Step into their shoes. See their point of view. Understand the steady accumulation of loss within the world of an elderly parent — loss of career, co-workers, friends, finances, mobility, overall health, and possibly the loss of a spouse — to name just a few. Acknowledge this and let them talk about these losses if they wish. Doing so may open opportunities to talk about fresh pathways that help them retain control over their lives today.

Offer opinions, not advice
Express your concerns about the need for senior living or assisted living rather than telling a loved one what they should do. Remember to ask for their ideas and input. Be respectful. Listen carefully to their concerns and draw them out by asking open-ended questions that foster discussion rather than closed, yes/no questions.

Let your parent be part of the decision-making process
This can be a huge asset in solving certain problems. Extending choice is an effective way of helping any stakeholder feel included, and to a degree, in control. By allowing a parent to make suggestions, you’re giving them a voice and an invitation to be part of the solution. As they take that control, they’re more likely to adapt to new changes because they had a hand in developing them.

Start this conversation long before a crisis emerges
As previously stated, waiting until a precipitating event takes place to begin talking to a parent about transitioning to care is not a recipe for success. Start the dialogue now. If you wait until your parents are having a health or financial crisis, there may be fewer choices available to them, or you may have to make decisions quickly. Let your parents know you’re concerned and you want to do the right thing for them. This will help them better understand why you’re bringing up sensitive issues. Being proactive can circumvent some of the stress and conflict that occurs when a health crisis sends family members scrambling for a quick solution.

Try for consensus within the family
Bring siblings into the discussion as and when appropriate — usually before bringing the subject up with parents. Talk through all the issues and assess the perspectives and degree of support from siblings and other relatives. There may be differing opinions that are at cross purposes with one another. Try to work these out before speaking to your parents. A unified consensus among adult children regarding these transitions for parents is always preferable to a divided, contentious family. Understand that there’s no single strategy that’ll work in every situation. It may take many conversations or mediation from outside the family to sort through the options.

Agree to disagree
It’s always possible to speak with parents only to arrive at an impasse. Resist the urge to push through the issue to get your way, even if in your heart, you believe you’re right. As long as a parent is of sound mind and there’s no immediate health crisis, their wishes should prevail. You can’t force someone to choose care. It may take time and additional conversations before they see the need for change as clearly as you do. Be patient, but also be loving and watchful.

Parents deserve respect
Though your parents may seem less able than they once were, show respect for their life experience and the great sacrifices they may have made for you. Let them know you have a plan to help them through these life transitions, and that the merits of this plan are worth considering and reconsidering. Even though you may hold different positions right now, reassure them that you’ll honor their wishes and be there for them as they grow older.

Professional opinions may prove helpful
If a parent appears intractable on their need for residential care, you might suggest they speak with a professional whose opinions they respect — their doctor, lawyer or financial planner, or perhaps a geriatric care manager.

Discover the living options at Atlantic Shores

In addition to independent living, the top-rated senior living options at Atlantic Shores include assisted living, memory care, and post-acute care such as skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Each level of care provides help as needed so individuals may remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.

Though your parent’s need for assistance may be beyond what you and your family can provide right now, the environment in Atlantic Shores may be just what’s needed. Award-winning dining, a calendar of social activities and events, concierge service, community library, and fitness center are all part of the assisted living experience. Your parents may find a new lease on life through volunteering opportunities, social gatherings, creative classes or spiritual services.

Find out how choosing Atlantic Shores may contribute to a better quality of life for your loved one needing assistance. Call us today at 757-716-3000 or contact us online to schedule a personal appointment.