Because the Doctor Says So: Talking to Mom About Assisted Living

Talking with your parent about assisted living is hard. Hannah used the doctor’s order to make it easier.
Posted by The Arbors on Apr 26, 2019 8:00:00 AM

A doctor and an elderly women in the doctors office discussing options for Assisted Living

Hannah started noticing things were off with her 90-year-old mom, Evelyn, a couple of years ago. Evelyn was living in the condo she had shared with her late husband for 30 years, and she was taking her blood pressure and cholesterol meds just fine. But then she’d ask her daughter the same question a few times in a 10-minute period. And then she fell.

When Mom Can’t Go Home from the Hospital

When Evelyn was in the hospital after she fell, the doctors pulled Hannah and her brother aside and said, “Your mom can’t go home.”

Hannah works full time as an insurance adjuster, is married, and has three kids — one in college, one in high school, and one in middle school. One brother lives in town, but a stroke a few years ago makes it hard for him to walk and makes caregiving for his elderly mother even more difficult. Her other brother lives in California.

Every week, Hannah was buying her mom’s groceries, stopping by three or four days a week to make meals, and helping out with anything else Evelyn needed. When she wasn’t providing care, she was worrying: Did Mom leave the coffee machine plugged in? Did she lock herself out?

“I was doing a lot,” Hannah says. “But my brother and I still wanted to get her back home. We felt bad. She’s our mother. She’d prefer to be at home, but it really can't be done financially.

She couldn’t afford in-home care. If she had a ton of money sitting in the bank, we’d have her at home. We just didn’t have any choice. We were going to do what the doctors were telling us to do.”

So the siblings embarked on the dreaded talk about moving to an assisted living community.  

Because the Doctor Said You Need Assisted Living

Assisted living had come up once or twice before. Sometimes when Hannah would stop by Evelyn’s house to drop off groceries, her mom would ask her to stay.

“She’d say to me: ‘Oh, I’m lonely. I don’t want to be here by myself. Can you stay?’” Hannah says. “I’d say, ‘Well, why don’t you go to assisted living?’ She’d always respond with a hard no.”

So Hannah wasn’t too surprised when “The Talk” about actually moving didn’t go that well.

“I could send her to the most expensive Hilton in Hawaii and she wouldn’t want to be there,” Hannah says. “She’s older. Home feels safe. It’s what she knows. She felt some control that she was taking care of it — even though she really wasn't. It was her safety net.”

But the doctors said so. “We had to tell her, ‘Mom, this is what the doctors are telling us you need,’” Hannah says. “We had to explain to her she could do a lot of the same things she does at home in assisted living. This is your home now.”

Evelyn relented and moved into an assisted living facility about 25 minutes away from her condo.  

Transitioning from Assisted Living to Memory Care

A few months after getting situated at the assisted living facility, the staff determined Evelyn needed memory care. When she moved into her memory care apartment, Hannah wasn’t a fan of her mom’s new accommodations. “She didn’t have a kitchen,” Hannah says. “It felt more like a hotel.”

The price went up a couple of thousand dollars, too, and that was just wasn’t in Evelyn’s budget.

“We had to look for something quick,” Hannah says.

She started Googling memory care communities within a 20-minute radius of where she and her brother lived and where her mom’s condo is.

“I wanted to find something in a nice town, in safe areas that she would be familiar with,” Hannah says.

When Hannah called The Arbors at Stoughton, she discovered that the assisted living and memory care community can help match a resident with a roommate to share living costs and apartment space in the community. The companion apartments even have a kitchen.

“Even though my mom doesn’t use the stove, there is a stove,” she says. “It still looks like a kitchen. It makes her feel like she’s in an apartment. I liked it much better.”

Plus, the community is near Cobbs Corner, a place Hannah’s mother is very familiar with.

“The staff is very welcoming,” Hannah says. “They have a relaxed attitude. I felt like I could relate to them.”

When Hannah took her mom in for a tour, she said: “It’s OK. It’s not my place, but it’s OK.”

The Safest Place for Mom

The first few weeks that Evelyn was at The Arbors, Hannah would see a piece of paper with the number for Canton Moving Company on it. She threatened to call a cab to take her back to her condo once, too.

“But my brother recently went to visit, and by the time my he left, she said: ‘Oh, I like my view out the window, and I do feel safe here,’” Hannah recalls.

Hannah feels more at ease, too. “I don’t have to worry about her at night,” she says.

For tips and ideas to make having “The Talk” with your parent and siblings easier, download our eBook Having “The Talk” With your Parent: It’s Time for Assisted Living.

how to have the talk about assisted living with your parent about assisted living

Topics: Family Resources