Conversations about moving to assisted living are hard but necessary

The best time to make changes and have conversations with a senior about moving out of their home is well before you are forced to make the decision.

If you wait until a crisis strikes, you can end up making choices in a panicked state and be unhappy with the outcome. For example, if you wait for an illness or a fall, your loved one could be spending more money for emergency care and have to scramble to find a better housing situation.

How do you start a conversation with your parents or loved ones about relocating? You may feel it’s the right decision, but your loved one may not. Research out of Penn State University, the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging and the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine found that 77 percent of adult children believe their parents are stubborn about taking their advice or getting help with daily problems.

In order to help prepare for an honest and productive conversation around moving into an assisted-living facility or retirement home, we asked some of our behavioral health specialists to put together some tips. Behavioral health specialists (BHS) help with complex health issues like sleep, chronic pain, stress, chronic disease management, anxiety and depression.

“Always remember that demands and ultimatums will never achieve a positive outcome. Try not to be laser-focused to a specific result,” one BHS said. “The first step is truly just making the suggestion and seeing how they respond.”

  • Start the conversation as early as possible. Even though you may not be thinking about it now, if you have open communication around living, medical care and end-of-life decisions early, words like “assisted living” and “caregiver” can lose their sting later on. It’s important to lay the groundwork while your loved one is still safe in their home. It helps to ask questions like, “What do you think you’d want to do if you can’t live alone safely anymore?” and “What would your ideal living situation be?”
  • Plant the seed. There are times when adult children shouldn’t pressure their parents into moving, but there are also situations that can be teaching moments. Did your loved one fall but didn’t get hurt? You can use this opportunity to say something like, “That must have been scary for you, and I’m glad you didn’t get hurt. But what would happen if you did?”
  • Go on tours. Tours can be a gentle, low-pressure introduction to the idea of moving into assisted living. Tour more than one living situation and always ask your loved one for their input.
  • Put the burden on you, not your parent or loved one. Make moving your problem instead of your loved ones. For instance, you can say, “I’m concerned about you” versus “You have to do this…” More often than not, parents and people who love us don’t want to burden others and might respond better to communication that focuses on feelings instead of what they should do.

The decision by elders to move has to be their choice. Acknowledge that you can’t make decisions on how to run their life, but can give input on how it makes you feel.

Don’t beat yourself up. It’s natural to feel guilt over moving a parent or loved one into an assisted-living facility, especially if you promised that it would never happen. However, focus on what they need in this moment, not what was discussed previously in a different situation. It is okay to feel guilt, but oftentimes under the right care, your loved one can thrive.

In the end, the most important thing is to act with compassion. Showing that you are capable of understanding fears about moving might help.

Source: Iora Primary Care