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The Big Talk: How to Approach the Assisted Living Conversation with Elderly Parents

As seniors enjoy longer lives, more families are turning to assisted living to help care for their aging family members. There are nearly 30,000 assisted living communities in the U.S. today and over 800,000 residents who live in these communities.

Assisted living provides a happy medium between aging in place and nursing homes. In assisted living, seniors can enjoy their independence while knowing help is always nearby.

Despite the advantages of assisted living for seniors, many shy away from residential care. From a fear of the unknown to a fear of being forgotten, there are a lot of reasons why seniors are wary of assisted living. Those fears can make it difficult for concerned family members to broach the assisted living conversation, but there are ways you can talk to a senior loved one about assisted living without scaring them off.

These tips will help you have a productive conversation about senior living with your aging loved one.

Share Your Concerns

Don’t jump into the assisted living conversation by telling a loved one that it’s time to move. Instead, start by sharing your concerns. These warning signs that a senior is struggling at home are a good place to start:

  • Unintended weight loss or gain.

  • An unsteady gait or frequent falls.

  • A decline in personal appearance.

  • Bills and housekeeping piling up.

  • Expired food and/or a limited diet.

  • Medication errors.

  • Withdrawal from social activities.

  • Mood changes and mental health problems.

Ask Questions

Now that you’ve shared your concerns, give your loved one a chance to speak. Questions like these are a great way to get seniors thinking about whether home is the safest place to be:

  • Do you still feel safe at home?

  • What are the hardest parts of living at home?

  • Do you ever think about getting extra help around the house?

  • Do you ever get lonely?

  • Do you wish you could spend more time with people your age?

  • What’s most important to you about where you live?

Talk About the Options

Many seniors associate assisted living with nursing homes, but the truth is, there are a lot of senior living options out there! Assuage your loved one’s fears by discussing senior living options where residents can be safe, happy, and self-sufficient.

  • Assisted living: Assisted living provides apartments where seniors can enjoy their private life while also receiving assistance with everyday tasks like laundry, housekeeping, and meal preparation. Many assisted living communities also offer on-site health services like pharmacies, physical and occupational therapies, and mental health counseling.

  • Memory care: Memory care is a specialized type of assisted living designed to support seniors with dementia. While some assisted living communities offer both regular care and memory care, others exclusively provide memory care.

  • Independent living: Independent living is designed for seniors who don’t need help with the activities of daily living, but do want the convenience of living in an age-friendly community. Independent living communities offer services like lawn care, housekeeping, and social activities.

  • Continuing care retirement communities: Not sure if your loved one needs independent living or assisted living? Look into continuing care retirement communities, which offer a range of care levels across a single campus.

Learn More

After introducing the idea of assisted living, leave your senior loved one with resources for learning more. These must-have resources cover everything from how to choose a senior living community to how to pay for it.

  • Senior services and options: What’s out there?

  • Assisted living and nursing home costs.

  • Tips on how to start your senior living search.

  • 6 tips for touring assisted living facilities.

  • Tips for de-cluttering and preparing for a move to senior living.

  • How to make friends in a retirement community.

Don’t expect your loved one to make a decision about assisted living right away. It takes time to come to terms with moving out of the family home, and for most families, this conversation is just the first of many. But with an open dialogue and gentle encouragement from family and friends, your loved one will come to see that moving to assisted living isn’t such a bad idea after all!

Image via Unsplash


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