How do you bring up the conversation about assisted living to your aging parent? Maybe you’ve spent hours researching different living arrangements and have decided that an assisted living community offers them the best balance of independence and care. But, what if they don’t want to hear anything you have to say?
Psychologist Mark Edinberg, who has worked in the field of gerontology for 30 years, suggests that you have the answers to two very important questions before you even begin a conversation.
- What are your goals? Do you want your parent to live in a safer environment? Are they isolated, and you want them to have more interaction with others?
- Are you doing this with your parent or for them? Do they have a say in the matter or not? Who is making the decision?
Having “The Talk”
If your parent is able to help you make the decision, Edinberg gives suggestions on how best to approach having the talk.
- Set the stage.
Plan when and where to have the conversation. Find a place that has minimal distractions, intrusions or noise that feels comfortable and welcoming.
- Use “I” statements.
Use terms like “I feel” or “I am worried.” This allows you to clearly express your feelings to your parent, so they don’t feel threatened by the situation.
- Discuss one thing at a time.
Bring up one thing at a time rather than dumping everything on them all at once. For example, instead of saying, “I think you need to live in an assisted living community,” try to explain how you came to your conclusion. “I’m worried about your safety. I know you love this house, there are so many memories here, but after your fall last year, I’ve been doing some research. I talked to (doctor, pastor, ally), and we think assisted living might be a good fit for you.”
- Give them time to process.
Many parents might automatically dismiss any change. Encourage them to take some time to process any information before making a decision.
- Be aware of sensitive points.
Leaving home can be a frightening and emotional situation. Your parent may respond in a harsh way, or completely disregard the conversation. If they disagree, ask them to support their reasoning and talk about how they are feeling.
- Practice the conversation.
Ask one of your family members to role play the conversation with you. Practice what you will say and possible scenarios of how your parent may respond.
Don’t be upset if the conversation ends without a solution. This is a life-changing event for you and your loved one and will take time.