]When your parents told you as a child that you could talk to them about anything, they probably never imagined that might one day include conversations about senior living. But whether it’s health and safety concerns or simply wanting your loved one to get more out of life, you may feel the time has come to consider the option. How will your loved ones react? Consider these dos and don’ts to create open communication and positive, productive discussions.
A Senior State-of-Mind
Before jumping into a conversation on what’s going on and/or should happen, first take a step back and think about your loved one’s state of mind at this point in their life. Quite honestly, the future can be scary especially when you fear it may mean:
- Loss of independence
- Poor health
- Running out of money
- Having to leave home
- Losing loved ones
- Being isolated and lonely
Keep in mind that if these fears are in the back of their mind already, often there’s a perception that senior living is the tipping point. By understanding where your loved one is coming from and communicating from their perspective instead of yours, they may be more receptive.
It’s Not Just One Conversation
You’ll often hear it referred to as ‘the talk’ about senior living, but ideally, this is more of an open, ongoing communication about your loved one’s future. What’s more, your family will be in a much better position to take time to think through options and what your loved one truly wants if you start this communication before the need is urgent. So, give yourself a break if you’re worried it may be too soon, it’s actually a good thing to be proactive. That way you won’t rush into a bad decision!
List talking points – These can be emotionally-charged conversations, but by writing down what you want to get across ahead of time you’ll be able to better guide the discussion (and remember everything).
Allow a natural flow – By this we mean choose a time or times where you’re free of distractions and don’t have a hard stopping point where you need to rush off. This allows for more organic and thoughtful discussion.
Keep it collaborative – It’s key to show you’re on your loved one’s side. If you’re patient, empathetic and listen, you may find they’re relieved to open up with you! It can help to start the initial conversation with questions such as:
- How can we help you stay independent?
- Do you enjoy cooking as much as you used to?
- Are you still comfortable driving?
- Is the house becoming a lot to manage?
- Are you able to connect with friends as often as you’d like?
- Do you wish you could get out of the house more?
- What’s something you’d really enjoy the opportunity to do?
- What are your concerns about the future?
Bust the myths – Senior living is likely much different than your loved one perceives so it can be helpful to talk through the benefits, particularly as they pertain to their answers to the above questions.
Dictate a decision — Your loved one should be included in all aspects of the process.; it’s their future after all! And you don’t want to strain your relationship or cause resentment when they need you most.
Parent them — Although your roles may be somewhat reversed now, they’re still your parent and it’s important they feel respected and heard, as should you.
Scare them — It’s not helpful to make any decision based on fear. Not to say you shouldn’t share your concerns, but in a way that offers solutions and helps them make the most of life.
What If the Family Doesn’t Agree on Senior Living?
Family dynamics can be challenging to say the least so it’s certainly possible that not everyone will be on the same page when it comes to your loved one moving to senior living. That said, all family members affected by the decision should still be part of the process. Don’t leave someone out just because they don’t agree with you (or can’t be there physically)!
Rather, the family should try to put your loved one’s needs first and stay open-minded. Even when opinions differ, everyone should feel respected and heard to foster a spirit of collaboration going forward. And options such as Zoom, Skype or Facetime make it easy to include relatives that are far away.
However, if your family just can’t come together, you might consider talking to a neutral third party. Consulting with your loved one’s physician, a case manager, social worker, lawyer, financial advisor or even their spiritual leader – especially those familiar with the communities you’re considering – can be of tremendous help in resolving your differences regarding senior living.
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