It’s an uncomfortable topic: talking about safety concerns, isolation, errors in managing medications at home or the plethora of other reasons assisted living becomes a topic of discussion.
To be honest, no matter your age, we don’t really like to think about what it’s like to not be able to live alone in the comfort of our own home. It’s quite common for a parent to ‘push back’ when bringing up the topic.
If your parent is resistive to the idea of assisted living, and even in denial of the warning signs that warrant it, here are some tips in how to approach the conversation.
- Be Patient
Put yourself in your parent’s shoes: Someone is trying to convince you — against your instincts, which you’ve relied on your whole life — that living in your own home is unsafe and that you should move into a brand new environment.
It’s a big ask. And if the rest of us have difficulty at times adapting to change, keep in mind older adults have an even harder time with change, especially when the decision is so life changing.
Be patient. Recognize that denial is the first step in the grieving process (followed by anger, bargaining, depression and, ultimately, acceptance). You may need to approach the conversation several times, several different ways to reach a consensus.
- Try a Different Approach
If you’ve spent your time telling your parent all the reasons they need to move, perhaps it’s time to try a different approach.
Many times, the fear of losing independence makes older adults reluctant to leave their home and move into assisted living. Rather than view the decision to move as a choice between keeping or losing independence, frame it as one of gaining or losing options.
Discuss things your loved one was once able to do or participate in that they may have given up (or can no longer do) as it has become more difficult to manage the house, or leave the home.
- Don’t Wait for a Crisis
Waiting to consider assisted living until a health emergency forces them to can leave you scrambling to find somewhere that can take your loved one by the time they are discharged from the hospital or rehab center. Instead of a deliberate search for the best place that fits their needs, desires and budget, it’s a desperate search for anywhere that can take them in time.
If your parent is resistive to the idea because they don’t view themselves as “ready yet”, discuss with them the idea of doing some preliminary research to ensure that you know what their wishes are. Not feeling the pressure of having to make a decision today may be the easiest way to get them in the “front door” for the first time.
- Use Active Listening Skills
This might be the most important part. No one likes being told what to do. No one likes their opinions and feelings to be dismissed. So rather than viewing your parent’s refusal to accept assisted living as an argument to win, view it as a challenge to find understanding.
Ask questions and listen. When mom says, I’m just not ready yet” try framing your question in a way that gives you clarity, such as, “what might the day look like when you would be ready?”
You might find that they’re afraid of something that happened to their grandmother in a nursing home 50 years ago. Or, you might find that your parent has an unrealistic expectation about what assisted living can offer versus a nursing home.
- Seek Support
Sometimes, no matter how you approach it, it will be more difficult for an adult child to have the conversation about assisted living than if you involve others. A representative from the assisted living community you are considering can offer insight and advice, or can even help you have the conversation with your parent.
Clergy, a family physician, or close friends of the family with a parent who experienced a similar life change can also help you have the conversation.
While there isn’t one magical answer in how to convince a parent that it’s time, if you approach your loved one with patience, love and respect, paired with good information, you stand a good chance of helping them transition from “I’m not ready” to “Well, we can take a look at one place”.