Talking to Parents About Assisted Living


Getting a Parent Into Assisted Living: Having the Conversation and Taking the Next Steps

The holidays are often a time when families get together, and for those with aging parents, it can begin a conversation about how mom or dad is doing. If a loved one is struggling to get around and meet their basic needs, it can open the door to a discussion about the need for additional care, or even a move to assisted living.

Talking to your loved one about assisted living or other care can be a difficult and highly emotional topic for everyone involved. Empathy is essential when approaching the conversation and realize that in many cases, getting a reluctant parent into an assisted living community will be a longer process than you intended.

To help ease the process, we’ve outlined some of the considerations for having that discussion, and the next steps you can take to help make the transition as seamless as possible.

Step 1: Assess the Situation

Your first step is to understand if your loved one is ready for assisted living. Get a clear picture of your parent’s health and ability to take care of themselves; in some cases, an in-home nurse may be sufficient in bridging a gap in care and help keep them in their home. Family members and in-home helpers can also provide non-medical care such as housework, meal preparation, hygiene tasks, or running errands.

Seniors are often reluctant to leave their homes; there sometimes comes the point when moving is a necessary next step in keeping your aging parents safe and healthy. Signs that someone may need assisted living include serious or frequent injury, difficulty performing everyday tasks, or worsening memory loss.

When assessing your loved one’s situation, consult their caretakers (including medical professionals) to evaluate whether a move is necessary. All family members involved in the process, such as siblings, should be aware of the situation and be on the same page moving forward.

Step 2: Have the Conversation

If you’ve made your assessments and still believe assisted living is a good idea, it’s time to bring up the topic with your loved one. Many articles recommend taking it slow and not pushing too hard — it can take multiple conversations for someone to come around, and the person should feel like they are playing an active part in deciding their future.

In some cases, a parent may outright refuse to consider assisted living. It is often very little you can do in this situation, and it may take a health scare to change their mind about living alone.

This article goes into greater detail about some of the ways you can bring up the conversation and convince your parents to move to assisted living.

Step 3: Consider Your Options

Once you’ve agreed your parent can no longer live independently, it’s time to consider your options in terms of care. You will need to review your parent’s finances to see what they can afford; in some cases, you may need additional assistance to cover the cost. In Michigan, for example, eligible adults “can receive Medicaid-covered services like those provided by nursing homes but can stay in their own home or another residential setting,” through the MI Choice Waiver Program.

Choosing the community right for you depends on what is within budget. Take some time to understand how you will approach budgeting for care. Be sure to include your parents in this conversation and explore all of the options, including insurance policies they may have obtained and programs they may use. Once clear, review these items as well:

  • What type of community interests them?
  • What type of amenities are required?
  • Do they require a certain level of privacy or bedroom size?
  • What type of environment would make them feel most at home?

Be sensitive to their needs and the fact that this can be a stressful and emotional time. With your list of criteria and budget in mind, you can then research local assisted living communities and create a shortlist of options you can tour. Your parent should accompany you on these tours if possible. Visiting communities with you helps them feel like a part of the process and also helps them to feel as if they have more control over the situation.

These tours will help you narrow your selection and pick the best option for your parent. Be sure to check the list of needs and wants against each facility and ask to chat with residents or staff to get a feel for the community. You should also verify the quality of care by checking assisted living records and reports to make sure there are no violations or other red flags.

Step 4: Make the Move

Even if you’ve found the perfect community, moving can be a challenging time. Your loved one has to deal with the emotions of leaving their home and adapting to a new environment. Throw coordination of the logistics of moving in, and it can begin to feel overwhelming.

To make this process as smooth as possible, talk to the community to find out what (if any) furniture is provided, and get room dimensions beforehand. Once you have an idea of how much space you’re working with, you and your loved one can decide which possessions to bring with them, while also making a plan for the items and clothing left behind.

With the logistics nailed down, you can focus on supporting your parent emotionally as they make the transition to assisted living. Having family and friends on hand to visit can go a long way in easing the stress of change — some communities even offer their transitional support services.

Want to learn more about assisted living? Find frequently asked questions about assisted living here.

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