Your parents’ generation likely remembers the cold, institutional-looking nursing homes of the 1960s and ’70s, so when it comes to what assisted living is — and isn’t — misperceptions abound.
When you talk about assisted living communities with your loved one, they may hear “nursing home.” Seniors often recall the clinical and institutional nursing home settings of decades past. This is even true for some baby boomers who want to age in their own homes because of negative perceptions of assisted living communities.
Here’s what to do if your parent objects to assisted living by saying, “I’m not moving to a nursing home.”
Address Generational Biases
Many seniors mistakenly believe that when they move to an assisted living community they’ll lose their privacy and independence when, in reality, it’s just the opposite.
According to the Aging in Place in America study, seniors fear the loss of independence and moving into a nursing home more than they fear death. The survey asked people aged 65 and older about their greatest fears. Death was rated at just 3 percent. Moving into a nursing home was at 13 percent and loss of independence was 26 percent.
Today, most seniors move to assisted living communities rather than directly into a nursing home. But unless your mom or dad has visited an actual assisted living community, it can be easy to assume that it’ll be just like the nursing homes or retirement homes of days gone by.
Explain the Differences
Assisted living is very different from skilled nursing or nursing home care. Nursing home care is focused on meeting government requirements while assisted living focuses on the resident’s wants and needs.
An important difference between assisted living and nursing homes is that assisted living residents can request as much or as little help as they need. Assisted living was specifically designed to provide an alternative to people who need minimal care but do not need skilled nursing.
Additionally, increasing regulations and a focus on offering person-centered care and creating more home-like settings for residents have had a beneficial impact on the look and feel of assisted living communities.
Handle the Objection
If your parent objects to assisted living by saying, “I’m not moving to a nursing home,” talk with them about the differences between assisted living and nursing homes. Look at brochures and visit the websites of some communities in your area that show how assisted living communities are now designed to empower seniors to maintain their independence while allowing for easy access to assistance, activities, and companionship.
Try saying something like, “A nursing home is just one type of senior living. Assisted living communities are very different. You’d have your own apartment. There’s a sit-down restaurant and activities every day. Why don’t we go check one out? There’s no commitment. I just want to see what you think.”
Let them know that there have been dramatic changes in long-term care over the past 50 years, and assisted living was designed to be different. Assisted living communities aren’t full of people who are sick and dying. In fact, research shows that assisted living can improve residents quality of life.
The best way to convey this information, however, is to show, not tell. There’s no substitute for actually walking the space, peeking in the dining room, sitting in on a book group or fitness class, and getting that firsthand look and feel. Your parent will see that many people choose to live in assisted living because it offers opportunities for learning, activities, and a new chapter in life.
Between group discussions on current events, exercise classes, shopping, art workshops, special outings, book clubs, lectures by guest speakers, and continuous interaction and engagement with other positive, vibrant residents, living at an assisted living community can offer far more mental stimulation and social engagement than staying at home.
Instead of waiting until they’re triggered or forced by poor health or another negative event, many seniors now see moving to an assisted living community as a proactive lifestyle move that allows them to choose the home and community that best meets their needs, dreams, and ambitions for the years ahead.
As you help them transition to a new stage of life, it helps to be prepared with answers to their questions and concerns. For more insights into common objections and strategies for how to handle them, download our eBook The Standoff: Coping With a Parent’s Objections to Assisted Living.