What we don’t know tends to scare us, and change brings about a lot of unknowns. If your parent is worried about the move to assisted living and the changes that come with it, the best thing you can do is provide them with information.
After all, the brain likes information it knows and understands and doesn’t like what it doesn't know. When it comes time to discuss moving to assisted living, there are bound to be some questions and concerns that arise.
Despite many dramatic changes over the past 50 years in the way the United States cares for seniors, there are still many myths and misconceptions surrounding assisted living. Here’s a look at the four most common myths your parent may believe about assisted living — and how you can handle them.
Assisted Living Myth #1 — It’ll Be Like Living in a Nursing Home
The senior living options of today are nothing like they were when your parents were growing up. Yet when you bring up the topic of assisted living, it’s likely that they recall the cold, smelly, institutional-looking nursing homes of decades past. It’s scary to imagine living in a facility surrounded by people who are sick and dying.
Fortunately, long-term care doesn’t look like what it used to. Today, many people actually move to assisted living communities so they can keep living life the way they want to.
If your parent is worried that “assisted living” is just another name for “nursing home,” share with them how they differ:
- Assisted living is housing that provides some care. Living in an assisted living community is similar to having a private apartment, complete with private bathroom and kitchen, plus access to elegant dining rooms, pubs, and outdoor porches as well as wellness clinics, afternoon yoga, and excursions. Most assisted living residents don’t need constant supervision. In fact, assisted living is designed to help seniors maintain their independence.
- Nursing homes are primarily caring facilities that also provide housing. Many residents have physical or mental health issues that require constant care and supervision from nursing professionals, so the atmosphere might seem more like a hospital than a home.
The best way to convey this information is to show, not tell. Look at brochures and visit the websites of some communities in your area so your parent can see firsthand what assisted living is really like. Between the fine dining, lectures by guest speakers, happy hours, and outings, your parent might start to see assisted living as an opportunity to start a new chapter in life.
Assisted Living Myth #2 — Moving Will Be a Huge Undertaking
The truth is that moving will require careful planning and a smart strategy — it always does. Fortunately, it’s a short-term process with a long-term payoff, and there are a lot of people who can help:
- The National Association of Senior Move Managers and Caring Transitions offer downsizing, or “rightsizing,” and relocation services.
- Seniors Real Estate Specialists are experts when it comes to addressing the real estate needs of those over the age of 50.
- Most assisted living communities have team members who help plan the physical move and navigate move-in day.
Of course, you and your family can navigate making the move to assisted living. You can even use it as an opportunity to get the family together, hear stories from your parents about their favorite trinkets and family heirlooms, and make sure some of the items not making the move stay in the family.
Remind your parent that they’re not giving up their home — they’re just moving to a new home. If your dad has a favorite recliner for watching TV or reading, there is room for the chair in his new home. If your mom has a grandfather clock that has been in the family for years, she can find a place for that, too. Bring their favorite nightstand or beloved quilt, and display knick-knacks around the room.
Yes, moving can be overwhelming. But don’t let your parents focus on what they’re giving up. On the other side of the pile of boxes is the next chapter in life that includes less housework, no home maintenance, more friends in the neighborhood, and opportunities to enjoy new hobbies and group adventures.
Assisted Living Myth #3 — I Will Run Out of Money
Do your parents have assisted living sticker shock? Many older adults mistakenly believe that assisted living is not an option for them because of the costs associated with it. And at a passing glance, it’s easy to think the cost of assisted living is more expensive than living on their own or hiring home care.
But when was the last time your parents figured out their current living expenses? Consider the costs associated with living at home: rent or mortgage, property taxes, insurance, utilities, groceries, transportation, home and yard maintenance, and more.
With assisted living, nearly every expense is included in the single monthly fee. Plus, assisted living offers health promotion and exercise programs, cultural and educational activities, social opportunities, personal care services, 24-hour staffing, and more.
Additionally, there are many strategies that can help make assisted living even more affordable. Veterans benefits, long-term care insurance, bridge loans, life insurance policies, and reverse mortgages can all help cover assisted living costs.
In many cases, assisted living just might cost less than staying at home.
Assisted Living Myth #4 — If I Move, Things Will Get Worse
Some seniors are worried that if they move to assisted living, they will get older and sicker faster. Whether your parent fears receiving poor care or being neglected by friends and family, you can put their fears to rest.
In recent years, there has been a movement toward person-centered care. High-quality assisted living communities provide hands-on human touch, lots of activities, and care directed toward the individual.
Research shows that a person’s quality of life actually improves after a move to assisted living thanks to the social environment and family involvement:
- Living at home can be isolating. Assisted living communities provide an environment for seniors to thrive and gain their independence back by getting active and social once again.
- Caregiving places financial, emotional, and physical stress on the caregiver, which strains their relationships with their loved one. Assisted living will allow you to spend more time enjoying your relationship with your parent instead of taking care of them.
Remind your parent that assisted living is where seniors go to maintain the quality of life to which they are accustomed.
As you talk about assisted living with your parent — something you may have been thinking about for a while — keep in mind that the idea may be brand new to them. Give your parent time to get used to the idea and process this change.
Knowing these common myths and fears ahead of time will allow you to address them honestly and thoughtfully, and having information about how they’ll benefit from assisted living can make having “The Talk” easier.