Moving from home to an assisted living community is a big change for both your parent, as well as you. For some families, they will have never felt stronger and united than the day they see their mom or dad happy in the assisted living community chosen. For others, conflict and turmoil will make this one of the most difficult decisions ever faced.
Stepping into the role of decision-maker (or even in a supportive role) when making a care decision for an aging parent can shift family dynamics can unearth long-buried tensions and family grievances.
Consider these tips to help avoid unwanted family conflict.
Getting to the point of searching for an assisted living community can feel like an accomplishment all in itself. But just because mom or dad has agreed to the search doesn’t mean he or she is fully on board with it.
Your parent may be fearful of the decision, or in denial about how much assistance with day to day activities they really need. The transition is a process, so keep the communication lines open. Consider holding regular family meetings. Above all, listen to your parent and ask questions.
- Allow time for grieving
As with any major change in life, there is a measure of grieving over leaving the life you knew behind. That can come from moving cities, becoming empty nesters or, certainly, moving out of your own home and into assisted living. This is a normal reaction, and being able to recognize the stage of grief your parent may be experiencing will allow you to identify the best way to support them.
Be patient through this stage. The more involved your parent can be in the decision-making process, the higher the chances they’ll be happy with the choice.
- Know what care your parent needs
Assisted living communities offer an array of different services and care levels. There are also differences in what they prioritize in their community, whether its safety features, nutrition programs, or outings and activities. If everyone in the family has a different idea of what your parent needs or wants, finding consensus about which one to choose can be difficult.
Often times, an assessment is part of moving to an assisted living community and can bring clarity as to the needs of your parent, as well as future potential needs. An assessment shouldn’t replace a one-on-one conversation with your parent to determine what they find to be the most important deciding factors when selecting a community.
- Know your financial options
Figuring out how to pay for assisted living can be a source of conflict. Medicare doesn’t cover it, and very few people have long-term care insurance.
The first step is to do a financial audit. Know what assets your parent has — their house, retirement savings, life insurance policies, pensions. Find out what each family member is able and willing to contribute. If your parent qualifies for a Veterans Pension, they might also qualify for a supplemental Aid and Attendance benefit that helps pay for assisted living. They can also convert a life insurance policy into a long-term care benefit.
- Keep the end in mind
There are many things to consider when choosing an assisted living community, and you’ll be balancing the sometimes-competing priorities of location, convenience, services, amenities, and cost. As you consider your options, be sure to identify which of these priorities is mot important to your family and your loved one. And most importantly, keep the end in mind: a happy, healthy parent in an environment where they can thrive.
Choosing an assisted living community can be a complex decision. Conflict will likely occur at some stage in the process, but well managed, it may just bring your family closer together.