Talking to your aging parent about moving to an assisted living community isn’t easy and Bob McDonald and his three older sisters had “The Talk” with their mom — twice.
The First Talk
Winifred has always been an independent woman. Her husband died at a young age, so she raised their four children by herself. Until recently, she was happy and healthy in an independent living apartment in the town where she raised them in Massachusetts.
Then the siblings started noticing some changes: “Her eating habits weren’t great. She wasn’t socializing as much. She was in need of care and attention,” McDonald says. “We all shared our own observations of her living conditions and her lifestyle. It was almost unanimous in terms of what we were observing.”
That’s when they decided to approach their mother. Fortunately, she was ready for a change, too.
“She was already feeling the same things,” McDonald says. “It was a very easy discussion. There was no resistance from my mother. She was eager to get into a community where she would be with people she could socialize with. That was a huge aspect for her.”
Winifred moved into an assisted living community in December 2017. At first, it was great. McDonald’s mother-in-law lived in the same community, and it was easy for him to pop in and out. But it wasn’t as centrally located for his sisters, and then there was the financial component.
“She wanted to be financially independent, and she couldn’t be where she was,” McDonald says. “She didn’t want to rely on us to supplement her housing.”
So, they went back to the drawing board.
The Second Talk
As an executive in the IT industry, McDonald is business-minded. He built a spreadsheet that included the criteria he, his sisters, and, most importantly, his mom were looking for in her next home. Items ranged from proximity to children and financial independence to socialization and cleanliness.
When McDonald shared the spreadsheet with his mom, she modified the criteria.
“She gave us things we hadn’t thought of,” he says. “She really wanted the financial independence piece. Because we were moving for financials, she didn’t want that to happen again. She wanted to make sure it was a long-term placement. That was a big deal for her.”
Using the spreadsheet, the family explored their options — and not just the obvious ones.
“I made sure my mother looked at environments I thought she wouldn’t like,” McDonald says. “I did that so she could confirm the ones she did like. If you don't know what you don't like, how can you be sure you found the right place?”
Based on the spreadsheet, referrals, tours, and conversations with staff, Winifred chose The Arbors at Dracut. “My mother said, ‘I feel at home,’” McDonald says.
So did he and his sisters:
“We fell in love with the whole Arbors concept — the environment, the programs,” McDonald continues. “They were focused on my mother. Other facilities would say to me, ‘This apartment is only going to be available to 2 p.m. tomorrow!’ But the Arbors kept talking about the program and worked with us to give us the time and space to make the decision that was right for us.”
When asked what advice McDonald would offer other adult children who are in this position, he says:
“Involve your parent. Don’t make the decision for them.”
For more tips and ideas to make talking with your parent and siblings about assisted living easier, download our guide Having “The Talk” With your Parent: It’s Time for Assisted Living.