If you are beginning to consider assisted living for your aging parents, there are a number of details and aspects you need to consider in order to make the best decision for your loved ones. One of your primary concerns will be how to bring up the topic and discuss it with the parent in question. Here are some good tips for beginning the conversation with mom and dad:
Approach the Topic Gradually
Assisted living can be a sensitive topic for seniors. It is common for people to form stereotypes about assisted living facilities. If you’re considering it for your parents, try to empathize with their situation. The idea of living in a strange place among strangers can be frightening and overwhelming. This is particularly true if your aging relative has never been to a modern assisted living facility.
Because of this, approach the topic of assisted living gradually. Don’t talk to them about it as if you’ve already made up your mind. Allow them to voice their concerns and give them the chance to feel like you’re taking their feelings into consideration.
Ease their Concerns
Your parent may be used to a certain routine or quality of life. The best thing to do when they raise points in a discussion about assisted living is to ease their concerns. If, for example, they socialize every Thursday evening, don’t dismiss this as something they can do without. Instead, try to offer possible solutions for replacing or even keeping up this element of their routine: do they have a particular friend they enjoy socializing with? It may be possible for them to visit them on the very same night while they live in assisted living.
Understanding the specifics of your parent’s situation is key: undermining their concerns by telling them they’ll be fine without the comfort of particular habits will make their transition to assisted living much more difficult.
Supporting your parent throughout all stages of the decision-making and finalizing process will help things run more smoothly and reduce stress all around. For example, once the discussions are truly moving forward, and your mom or dad has decided on an assisted living facility, you should go above and beyond what is required of you as a dutiful daughter or son. For example, you can assure them that you will be there for them on the first day of their assisted living experience, including even the mealtimes. The most nerve-wracking period of time for any new experience is always the first day: whether it’s the first day at school for a child, or the first day at a new job for an adult.
When discussing assisted living with mom and dad, both you and your parent should be aware that assisted living facilities are not the same as nursing homes. Assisted living facilities are for aging relatives who are no longer capable of living independently but do not require the around-the-clock care provided at nursing homes. Thus, assisted living facilities bridge the gap between complete independence and dependence. They are the perfect place for an aging relative who is still lucid and has a moderate level of independence.
Still, if assisted living is being considered, chances are that your parent may have medical problems that need to be considered before choosing an appropriate facility. It is particularly important that all parties involved in the decision-making process are aware that assisted living facilities are not required to have professional medical staff to the same extent as nursing homes. Staff at assisted living facilities are trained and registered, and are perfectly capable of administering medication and helping out your parent if they have a minor fall or accident. However, assisted living facilities do not automatically have staff who are medically trained nurses, so this should be an important consideration in your discussions.
Mistakes to Avoid
The idea of discussing assisted living with mom and dad is already a potentially stressful topic, so it’s best to avoid mistakes that relatives often make when making a decision about an assisted living facility.
For example, you need to remember that the facility is for your parent; and not you. Your lifestyle and comfort requirements most likely differ from those of your parent, and you must strive to respect their opinions throughout the process. When you’ve reached the next stage of the discussion process, and are perhaps showing your loved one leaflets or even showing them around a facility, remember that your impressions of the place are secondary to theirs.
Never try to pressure your parent into going somewhere they want to go simply because it impresses you. On the other hand, if they seem content with a place that you aren’t pleased with, don’t talk them out of it. Be supportive of whatever and wherever they decide: it’s them, and not you, who has to live there.
Other mistakes that should be avoided in your discussion and subsequent decision-making are not to judge a facility solely by its appearance, and not to rush into a decision.
Facilities should not be judged solely by their appearance, because there are more important factors to consider. The apparent friendliness of any staff you encounter, the location, and the cost, are just three of many points that should take precedence over the color of the wallpaper or the pattern on the floors. It’s true that a facility in severe disrepair; particularly structural, should rank pretty low on your list due to safety considerations. However, outdated furnishings and decorations in a facility; as long as it is clean and well-maintained, should really not be a deal-breaker.
Finally, it is imperative that you are patient with your mom or dad. Moving to assisted living is a big transition for them, so it is unrealistic to expect immediate enthusiasm when the initial discussions take place. Be prepared for skepticism and stubbornness on their part. Over time, they will hopefully begin to see the advantages of assisted living.