Starting the Senior Living Conversation
The senior living conversation can be a difficult one, but going about it the right way can make it a little easier. Whether they just need a little help around the house or are ready to move to a retirement community, talking about it can help your loved ones get more out of life.
Before the Conversation
Make a list of concerns. Are your loved ones having difficulties in their daily life? Are you concerned about how safe their home is? Do they need help with the activities of daily life? You may need to talk to other friends and family members to get their perspectives.
Do your research. Most people have more difficulty with an abstract conversation. A few concrete examples and options can be less stressful and anxiety-inducing than a mountain of options.
Tips for a Better Conversation
Have the conversation early. Tackling the decision early will take some of the stress and pressure off if something happens, such as a fall or illness. Having the conversation before it's needed will allow you and your loved one time to process information and really consider what is best.
Talk face to face. Phone calls are great, but they can't replace a face-to-face discussion. If talking in person isn't possible, arrange a video call so you can see each other during the discussion.
Listen. Your loved one may have concerns and anxieties about moving out of their home, especially if they have lived there a long time. It's important to acknowledge their feelings. Take the time to really listen to what they are saying. A point that seems irrelevant to the conversation may actually be showing a concern you weren't aware of.
Empathy, not sympathy. Don't feel sorry for them, but show them that you care. Don't be combative - ask them for their thoughts instead of talking over them. It's both of you against the problem, not you against them.
Avoid info overload. Some background information can be helpful, but receiving tons of information can be overwhelming.
Take your time. The decision most likely won't be made in one conversation. Your loved one may need additional time to sort through their feelings and find the words to describe them. It's a process, not a one-and-done discussion.
Visit in person. One of the best ways to see what a community is like is by visiting in person. This allows you and your loved one to get an idea of the kinds of amenities, culture, lifestyle, and neighbors that they may have.
As with many difficult topics, starting the conversation can be the most difficult part. These conversation starters may be useful:
What's it like to be alone in your house? Do you feel safe?
Do you have a long-term care strategy in mind? Where would you go if you fell or became ill and couldn't care for yourself? How would you pay for your care?
Do you have times when you're feeling lonely? Do you wish you had more time to spend with people your own age?
How's the car? Are you still going on drives?
How do you feel about driving? Would you be interested in other transportation forms where you don't have to worry about driving yourself places, traffic, parking, and paying for car maintenance and gas?
Is it ever hard to keep track of your bills or finances?
Have you ever considered getting some help with laundry and housekeeping?
How's the house? It must be hard to keep it in good shape.
Would you feel better if you didn't have to worry about house maintenance?