Seniors are living longer today than in any previous generation. We don’t need an expert to tell us that the longer they live, the higher the probability they’ll require additional care to maintain quality of life. As a result, today’s adult children are facing an uncomfortable conversation — how to talk to parents about assisted living.
The best piece of advice from those who’ve been there is this: Don’t wait until the need for assisted living is obvious or immediate. Making critical decisions when Mom is already having difficulties with activities of daily living (referred to by clinicians as ADLs) often results in stress, guilt and poor choices. It’s wiser and more considerate to begin the conversation early with your loved one about moving to an assisted living community and, most important, to continue an open dialogue as circumstances evolve.
Recognizing the Need – Know Your ADLs
Also keep in mind that the changes your loved one experiences as they age can sneak up on you (and them). It’s not just medical conditions that create a need for more help. You may notice they’re not keeping their living space as tidy as they used to, or they stop seeing friends because they can’t get around easily. You may see them wearing stained clothes, having difficulty rising out of a chair or from bed, or not taking care of their own hygiene as they always did. These are all valid reasons for concern — and for exploring the option of assisted living.
While it’s common to feel you’re the best possible caregiver for your parent, “no matter what,” the truth is, taking care of ADLs like bathing, dressing, toileting, and preparing every meal is taxing on every level. The aides who take care of residents at an assisted living facility are trained in tasks involving personal assistance. Allowing them to shoulder these important care responsibilities gives you peace of mind, and affords you and your loved one the freedom to enjoy the simple pleasure of being parent and child. You both deserve that.
Conversation Strategies That Can Help Make Your Case
As your loved one ages, the need for honest, frank talks increases. Don’t be afraid to talk to your loved one about end-of-life directives and their feelings about giving up driving. And by all means, begin the dialogue sooner rather than later about the potential need for assisted living if and when your loved one can’t manage living on their own.
A few points to keep in mind:
• Keep it Light: Experts suggest making your initial conversations about needing more personal assistance loose and casual. Wait for a quiet moment together on the porch or another spot when you can talk frankly and comfortably.
• Plan Talking Points: Gather your thoughts and reasoning in advance to help stay on point and keep emotions in check. Expect to have this conversation a number of times, and work to keep them from turning into arguments. If things start to get heated, retreat and bring up the topic another time.
• Practice Positivity: Share your concerns in a positive manner. Rather than saying, “Mom, at your age you just can’t do this by yourself anymore,” say, “Mom, you’ve done it all, all your life … a little help would take some of the pressure off and you deserve that.”
• Emphasize Benefits: Paint a picture of the advantages: being served delicious meals instead of having to cook; having friends to socialize with just outside your door; enjoying activities galore; letting go of the burden of paying bills, cleaning the house, repairs, etc. A carefree lifestyle!
• Pay a Visit: Plan a few casual visits together to nearby assisted living communities to see what life would be like. Arrange to have lunch in the dining room to get a feel for the atmosphere and make the experience special.
• Ask Around: Look to friends and co-workers for recommendations. You’ll be amazed at how many people in your age group have gone through exactly what you’re experiencing. Their tips, advice and referrals are invaluable.
• Find Familiar Faces: Find out if any friends or acquaintances of your loved one have moved to an assisted living community — familiar faces will make the transition easier.
Tips for a Smoother Transition to Assisted Living
Clearly, making a smooth transition to assisted living is best accomplished when your loved one is mentally and emotionally prepared. The more you’ve discussed it openly and not under pressure, the better it will be for all involved.
Discussing it sooner rather than later also allows you and your mom or dad to look more objectively at the financial situation and the cost options that best meet your situation. If you or your parent has a trusted financial advisor, it would be helpful to also involve that person in the discussion.
If your loved one still lives in the family home, it also makes sense to slowly begin the process of paring down possessions and memorabilia. The longer they’ve lived in the home, the more stuff they’ve collected that probably can be given away to family, donated or tossed. Make a fun weekend (or several weekends!) project out of the process to keep it light.
A Great Life Awaits at Kellogg Assisted at Mary’s Woods
When you and your loved one are ready to explore assisted living options together, we hope you’ll include Kellogg Assisted Living at Mary’s Woods on your tour list. Here at one of Oregon’s best assisted living communities, Mom or Dad will enjoy living in a private apartment where they receive superb personalized care, and can take advantage of a host of upscale lifestyle choices to help them live life to the fullest. We look forward to meeting you and showing you around!