Deciding to move into an assisted living facility isn’t an easy one. Our homes include memories and familiarity. However, too many families procrastinate the oftentimes difficult conversation about entering into assisted living.
All too often, families scramble frantically after a medical crisis or an accident to find a senior living community (assisted living, nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or group home) that can accept their parent and provide sufficient medical care. While this is common, it doesn’t always end up with the best fit or allowing accommodation of a parent’s senior living preferences
A better approach is to engage in conversation about moving into assisted living far in advance. This allows everyone involved to ask questions, express concerns, and overcome any anxiety about making the move.
- Evaluating Your Parents' Prognosis
- How Can Assisted Living Help?
- Talking With Family
- Talking With Your Parents About Assisted Living
- Researching & Visiting Assisted Living Facilities
- Prepare to Transition to an Assisted Living Facility
- Tips for Talking About Assisted Living With Your Parents
- Be Kind and Empathetic
- Be Patient & Give Them Time to Process and Think
- Start the Discussion Before Care is Immediately Needed
- Try to Focus on the Positives that Your Parents Will Like the Most
- Genuinely Seek Their Input as You Research and Tour Assisted Living Facilities
- Let Them Make as Many Decisions and Choices as Possible
Evaluating Your Parents’ Prognosis
The first step is taking stock of the type of care your aging parents need – as well as the care and support they are likely to need down the road.
Activities of Daily Living
Ask yourself which activities of daily living (ADLs) have already become an issue. ADLs consist of:
- Dressing (selecting and wearing appropriate clothing)
- Personal hygiene (grooming, bathing, oral, and hair care)
- Feeding (the ability to feed themselves without assistance)
- Continence management (the physical and mental ability to use the restroom)
- Ambulating (the ability to walk independently and shift from one position to another)
It’s important to gauge each of the above categories as you work to understand where your parents may already have issues or are having more difficulty than they used to.
What kind of medical care do they need on a routine? If you’re noticing that your parents often have difficulty making it to doctor’s visits, then it could be a good time to have the conversation about assisted living. Many assisted living communities will provide transportation services (often an additional feed) to help ensure residents are getting to appointments and receiving the care they need.
As many older adults take daily medications, a core function of assisted living is to provide medication management and administration. This helps provide consistency and adherence to prescribed care and maintaining your parents quality of life.
If your parents have diagnosed memory care needs (such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or memory loss), you will need to find an assisted living community that supports memory care. Some assisted living facilities have memory care units to help seniors showing signs of dementia.
Read More: Assisted Living vs. Memory Care
If your parents need more intensive or specialized medical care, assisted living might not be the best fit. While some assisted living facilities provide more clinical care, this level of care is more frequently provided in a nursing home.
Assess the social needs your parents might struggle with. Are the majority of their waking hours filled with isolation? If your parents have lost their driving privileges or lost close friends, they often end up with a shrinking social circle. This can be detrimental for their mental health and overall well being. Assisted living can help them meet more people, enjoy the company of new friends, and participate in activities.
How Can Assisted Living Help?
Assisted living provides various levels of care based on your parents’ needs. But assisted living care is much more than helping them bathe, dress, eat, get around, and take medications.
Community & Socialization
Improving your parents’ lives in the area of social needs can make all the difference when it comes to improving their everyday life experience.
People in our society don’t always recognize the ability for loneliness to negatively impact senior health. We can lose our social connections after retirement, when friends pass away, or after family members move to other parts of the country. All of this can add up to depression or negatively impact physical health conditions for parents.
Moving into an assisted living facility means your parents can become exposed to:
- Socialization and community
- Organized activities
- Planned outings and events
While loneliness increases the chances of health risks, being around others for socialization can help improve physical health, mental health, and overall wellbeing.
Social events, games, and planned outings all encourage physical activity, leading to lower blood pressure, less physical pain, and improved mental health.
Consider that moving your parents into assisted living while they’re still independent can help them build relationships while feeling comfortable with the change. This will help prevent a decline in health or cognitive ability or make any decline easier to manage.
Malnutrition can exist for seniors who live at home and can’t (or won’t) prepare quality meals for themselves. Assisted living communities have professional cooking staff who prepare nutritious meals for residents and can help adhere to any dietary restrictions (that parents may forget or ignore when living on their own).
Supervision & Check ins
Another benefit of having parents in an assisted living living facility is the peace of mind from having consistent supervision, particularly when some or all of the family does not live close.
There are many aspects of having regular staff interacting with and checking on your parents that are helpful. There is the reassurance that with scheduled check ins and assistance with activities of daily living, staff members are continuously coming in to your parents’ residence and will quickly notice if your parent has fallen or is experiencing a medical emergency.
Additionally, when the same people are interacting with your parents on a daily basis, they can observe changes in their condition and can provide recommendations for increasing the level of care or being evaluated by their doctor for new treatment plans.
Talking With Family
It’s never a good idea for any family member to solely take over the decision to move parents into assisted living while leaving other family members in the dark. This can create significant family riffs and tension for years to come.
Reach a Consensus on Needs
Engage in conversation with siblings and other family members about your concerns for your parents’ needs and future care. Ask others if they see the same issues that you see. There’s no point in talking about assisted living needs without all family members at least agreeing that the signs for it exist.
Align Family on a Care Plan and Living Situation
Seeing the signs that your parents need help isn’t enough. It is important for family members to come together and develop a plan for how to best care for the parents. There are many options available for senior living and siblings may have different feelings on what the best option for care is. It’s important to work through the choices together and be aligned on the best care plan for your parents. This may take significant time, research, discussions and even site visits to long-term care facilities with your family members. Again, this is another reason to start the conversation early, well before a crisis.
Work to get everyone aligned before bringing your parents into the conversation.
Talking With Your Parents About Assisted Living
Gather all the adult children together when introducing the topic of assisted living to your parents. Get commitments to remain calm throughout the conversation – parents can often have strong feelings and escalate the conversation quickly.
Asking parents if they’ve ever thought about the future is an excellent way to start the conversation.
Remain supportive and empathetic as you put your parents and their feelings first. This may be the first time they have thought about or discussed alternative care and living arrangements.
Continue the conversation by pointing out concerns the family has about your parent’s current living situation. Let them know that your primary hope is that they’re never left in a situation where their safety or health becomes compromised. It can be helpful to highlight some of the benefits of assisted living that you believe would improve their quality of life.
Whether your parents said they’ve discussed the future or not, segue into the concerns you have about getting them the level of care or help they’ll need in the future.
Your goal during this conversation is to start the conversation with your parents regarding their present situation and how that might affect their future care needs. While it would be nice if everyone came to a consensus in a single discussion, the reality is that this will likely be an ongoing conversation of weeks or months. This is a significant conversation and decision that deserves time.
Keep in mind that they have trouble articulating feelings, thoughts, or preferences on the spot. A good option is to ask your parents to spend some time thinking about their preferences for the future and agree to revisit in the future.
Fears Your Parents Might Bring up
Your parents might immediately become fearful that they’ll lose control over their future living conditions. Everyone wants the ability to select where they live. You can help alleviate this concern by reminding them of your concerns and that you want to work with them to consider options and develop a senior care plan that meets their needs and preferences while providing the needed care and safety.
For elderly parents, moving into assisted living might bring up fears about dying. Even if your parents have decades left to live, you might find that they fight the decision because they think it’s the place they go to die. If your parents bring this up, it can be helpful to bring up that you can also develop a plan for their end of life care which could look different than the short term plan such as palliative or hospice home care in their own home.
Another concern that parents have but might not vocalize is no longer seeing family or being forgotten about. This can be addressed by discussing visiting and socialization plans including weekly visits or meals in the assisted living facility as well as bringing them back to your house for family meals on a regular basis.
Your parents might not articulate these concerns directly or this way. It will get mixed up with fears about losing their independence and wondering how different the relationships with their children could change. The best solution is to set the stage for having many open conversations and earnestly trying to understand their preferences, concerns and feelings.
Researching & Visiting Assisted Living Facilities
Eventually the time will come to start looking at assisted living facilities. Start by making a list of what’s important to you and your parents before researching assisted living facilities. Your list might include:
- How caring does the staff appear to be?
- Does the facility offer private rooms and bathrooms?
- How large are the facility’s units?
- Do the units offer kitchen areas?
- What social activities are provided?
- Do they facilitate outings?
- How often will staff check on your parents (if desired)?
- Does every resident receive a personalized care plan?
- If they offer personalized care plans, are you and your parents involved in creating them?
- Can the facility provide special care for issues such as dementia or other specific health conditions?
- What happens if your parent’s needs change? Can they access additional services at a later date?
Putting together a list ahead of time will help you identify the facilities that best meet your parents’ current and future care needs.
Don’t forget to pay close attention to the social activities offered by any assisted living facility you research and visit. This will help you choose the facility that best supports your parents in staying active, meeting new friends, and having the best opportunity to enjoy living in their new home.
Always take advantage of tours. A tour allows you and your parents to gain a better perspective about what it’s like to live and interact inside the facility.
Prepare to Transition to an Assisted Living Facility
Once you’ve found the right assisted living facility and your parents are on board, it’s time to prepare for the move. Engage your parents in conversation far in advance of the moving date. They’re embarking on a significant life transition and will likely require help with all the steps involved.
Put the move-in date on the calendar and make a logical daily and weekly checklist, so none of it appears overwhelming. Ask your parents which possessions they want to bring with them. Focus their attention on identifying items that will provide continuity and stability in their life.
Packing for such a move can become cumbersome. Some assisted living facilities provide packing services. Ask your chosen assisted living community if this is an option. Focus on packing up everything ahead of time, so no one feels rushed as the move-in date approaches.
Tips for Talking About Assisted Living With Your Parents
The hardest part about this situation is broaching the topic with your parents and then having a quality, empowered, and empathetic conversation. Use the following tips to help you throughout the process.
Be Kind and Empathetic
Many emotions will hit your parents when they’re presented with the subject of uprooting themselves from their home. You and other family members must remain empathetic.
Be Patient & Give Them Time to Process and Think
Your parents may become agitated or even angry at times. Keep your patience intact as you allow them to process their emotions.
Start the Discussion Before Care is Immediately Needed
It’s not ideal to wait until parents need physical or mental care. This allows for less input from your parents and less time for them to become accustomed to the idea of moving out of their current home and into a new community. Have the conversation when your parents remain in good mental and physical shape.
Try to Focus on the Positives that Your Parents Will Like the Most
You and other family members know your parents best. Ask them how life might feel if they never had to deal with meals, laundry, and housekeeping again. Point out that many seniors discover they enjoy a life freed up from doing those activities.
Genuinely Seek Their Input as You Research and Tour Assisted Living Facilities
You’ll lose your parents’ faith if you dominate the research process. Ask them for feedback. Let them take “point” during conversations with facility representatives.
Let Them Make as Many Decisions and Choices as Possible
Your parents must feel in control of their future. The best way to accomplish that is to make their own decisions about it.
Let’s review three commonly asked questions.
How Do I Convince My Parents to Go to Assisted Living?
This isn’t the best mentality to have going into the conversation. Don’t convince them. Ask questions. Get them talking. Guide them into their own decisions rather than convincing them. Work together to find the senior housing option and care for their needs and preferences.
How Do I Know if My Parents Need Assisted Living?
Pay attention to their standard of living. Is their home’s exterior beginning to deteriorate? Are they looking haggard and unhealthy? Do they miss doctor’s appointments? Are clothes, newspapers, and other items piling up around the house? These are signs that it’s time for the conversation.
How Can Parents with Dementia Adjust to Assisted Living?
The critical part after the move is ensuring that they become intimately involved in counseling and transition services offered at the facility. Lean on the staff and let them guide your parents into becoming comfortable.