Talking to Your Parents about Senior Care Communities

For many older adults, moving to a senior care community is a daunting transition. Often, the thought of leaving one’s home is so overwhelming that people stay put, even when doing so poses risks to their health and wellbeing.

If you sense that your loved one may benefit from moving to a senior community––now or in the near future––then it’s important to have a conversation as soon as possible. The goal of this conversation is to walk through the benefits of these communities. By presenting the options and helping your parents understand their options, you can ultimately get everyone on board with a smooth transition.


Before You Start the Conversation

Consider Their Needs

Naturally, no one considers a senior care community without reason; however, it’s important to get more granular than the broad notion that your parent can no longer live alone. Beyond falls and limited mobility, take some time to articulate exactly what your parent might need help with.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Activities of daily living (ADLs) refer to a range of personal care tasks that a person needs to perform on a daily basis. These include mobility, feeding, dressing, personal hygiene, and toileting. Age and other conditions can hinder one’s ability to independently perform these tasks, and different types of communities will offer assistance with them. For example, most assisted living communities will charge additional fees if a resident needs assistance with toileting or dressing.

Health Needs

As we age, we often require more complex regimens of medications and attention to our overall health. If your parent has any health conditions, then it’s important to take stock of these and consider which type of community can accommodate these concerns. While some assisted living communities offer onsite healthcare, nursing homes possess a wide array of services to treat those with injuries and chronic illnesses.

Social Needs

While different people require different levels of social interaction, loneliness and social isolation are linked to increased risks of depression, dementia, and premature death. Especially for older adults, who may have lost their close friends and family members, loneliness is a prevalent issue. In addition to the care provided by a community’s staff, other residents can also provide important social interaction. Most communities will offer structured activities and clubs to encourage this.

Environmental Concerns

In terms of accessibility, not all homes are created equally. Stairs to a second-floor bedroom can become painful to climb, and they also present risks of a fall. Traditional bathtubs can also present a risk of injury. While some of these issues can be mitigated through remodels, there’s also the issue of home maintenance. Depending on one’s mobility, tasks such as cooking and cleaning can quickly become unmanageable.


Research Your Options

While we often think of assisted living and nursing homes, these are just two options among a broad spectrum of senior care communities. Memory care facilities can accommodate the needs of those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Independent living environments allow for easier downsizing, and they can also offer assistance with household chores and social activities.

To start your search, consider browsing online for local communities. You might also ask friends and neighbors if they have any experience with certain communities. Once you’ve found a few ideal communities, you can reach out to learn more about their services, amenities, and costs. Once you’ve talked it over with your parent, you can even arrange a tour.


Consider the Role of Finance

In 2021, the national average monthly cost for an assisted living community was $4,500. While these costs will vary widely by location and the type of community, it’s important to start thinking about how you plan to pay for your parent’s senior community.

Ideally, your parent will have ample savings. This, combined with the sale of a home, may be able to cover the costs of long-term residential care. However, long-term care insurance, VA benefits, and Medicaid may be able to cover part of the costs, making it important to also speak to your financial advisor to make a plan to pay for your parent’s care.


Having the Conversation

There is no wrong time to talk to your parent and bring up the idea of a senior care community. That said, the earlier you do it, the more likely it is that your parent will be on board by the time they need care. In many cases, parents will be staunchly opposed to a senior community but, in time, soften and come around to the idea.

Because of this, it’s best to think of “the conversation” as a process, one that may consist of several conversations over a longer period. With this in mind, here’s how you should proceed:

Be Empathetic

No matter your age, moving from one’s home is a scary process. In the case of an aging parent, moving to a senior care community often feels like they’re reaching the end of their life.

In many cases, parents may react with anger, or they may dismiss the idea entirely. Your job, however, is to be patient with them, listening to each of their concerns, and noting the positives of a senior care community. Under no circumstances should you threaten or insult your parent; rather, you’ll want to point to the ways in which a senior community could positively impact their wellbeing.

Compassionately Express Concerns

In addition to noting the benefits of a community setting, you should also mention your concerns as their child. These should be clearly articulated with anecdotal evidence that refrains from personal insults. For example, if your parent has experienced several falls with no one around to help, you might point out how this makes you worry for their safety. You can then mention how assisted living would provide assistance at all hours for these kinds of emergencies.

Get the Family Involved

While you don’t need to assemble your entire family for an intervention-style discussion, you’ll want to get your siblings on board with the process. If your goal is to help your father transition to memory care while your brother insists he can live at home, you’ll likely make little progress. A united front can help ensure that your efforts don’t go to waste.

Tour Multiple Facilities

For many, moving to a senior community makes them feel powerless. To help restore a parent’s sense of agency, you should take in-person tours of multiple communities. This will also allow them to envision their life in such communities. For those who’ve never visited an assisted living community, it’s often shocking how clean, lively, and well-appointed they are.

Prepare for Continued Discussion

It’s always beneficial to start long-term care conversations before care is needed. This way, your parent can get accustomed to the idea of a senior care community before there’s an urgent need for relocation. Many senior communities have lengthy waitlists, making it imperative to have a plan.

While initial discussions about care communities may prove contentious, your goal should be to plant a seed, to demonstrate to your parent that you’re not throwing them in an old folks home; rather, you’re helping them plan their future.

With time and your loving support, they’ll come to see that senior communities offer a lifestyle of safety, joy, and independence.

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