As adults get older it is natural for them to need help doing things they were able to do when they were younger. Some need more help than others, and the age at which their needs change may vary greatly. Each person along with the people who love them must find the right solution for their personal and potential medical needs.
Many adult children will find themselves in the position of having to discuss the possibilities of senior living options with their aging parents and often will be initiating the conversation. They can be difficult, emotional discussions, but they are necessary. Below you will find some tips to help with these conversations.
When is the right time to start the conversation?
Talking with your loved ones about their current and long-term living situations can begin at any time. However, having the conversation before a need arises will help ensure that an informed decision can be made without having to scramble at a time of crisis and make a move out of duress.
Some seniors can live in their home safely for a long time, maybe even their entire lives. You may be asking yourself how you will know if your loved ones may need to consider moving. Below are some signs that it may be time to consider a move to a retirement community in earnest.
- Safety concerns such as increased risk of falling or tripping on stairs or experiencing any other type of household accidents
- Increased medical needs such as frequent visits to physicians or ongoing therapies
- Forgetting to take medications, to eat, a decline in personal hygiene or other daily routines
- Isolation from friends and family, a decline in driving or attending other social activities such as worship services, book or card clubs, or other activities they may have attended in the past
How do I start a difficult conversation?
The earlier you begin the conversation with your loved one, the better chance that it will go smoothly. Make sure everyone involved in the decision is involved, including your siblings and their spouses and possibly even adult grandchildren or anyone else whose opinion your loved one values. Once the family and loved ones are on the same page you may want to loop in their physicians for recommendations and their financial planner or advisor to make sure they are looking at communities within their means. Start by asking your loved one questions like the ones below.
- How comfortable are they in their current living situation?
- Where would they prefer to live?
- What are their concerns about moving to a senior living community?
- How can you and the rest of the family help with any struggles or concerns they are having?
A conversation like this can bring about all types of emotions including negative ones such as anger, depression, and defensiveness. They may have misconceptions regarding what moving to a retirement community can look like. By listening to your loved ones and validating their concerns, you will let them know they still have a voice and an opinion that matters when it comes to moving. Assure them that they have a voice and that any decisions will be made together.
Self-care is extremely important during this time.
Make sure you are addressing your needs too. Acknowledging that your loved ones are aging, and their needs are changing may bring up plenty of emotions for you as well.
Marylin A. Mendoza, Ph.D., writes in a Psychology Today article about the pain and guilt that some adults experience when arranging care for their parents or senior relatives. She says these feelings are normal and suggest that you:
- Acknowledge and accept how you feel
- Recognize that you are only human and not some superhero
- Be careful what you promise your loved one
- Take the time to nourish and replenish yourself
- Write down your thoughts and feelings
- Talk to friends, family, or other caregivers.
Making sure you are in a better place psychologically and emotionally will allow you to be in a better position to help your loved ones.