Moving Your Senior Parent with Empathy
Having “the conversation” with a family member about moving into an assisted living facility can feel overwhelming and stressful for everyone involved. Many seniors don’t want to face the reality of their diminishing capabilities and adult children don’t want to think about a future without their parents. However, if you wait until a time of crisis to start exploring options it’s much more difficult to make well-thought out decisions that maintain positive relationships. Keep the below tips in mind when it comes time to approach this conversation and you can have a healthy, empathetic discussion that strengthens your family ties.
1. Build a Caregiving Team
The first step to a smooth senior move is getting the entire family on the same page. Hold a meeting with siblings and anyone else who is highly involved with your elder’s care to discuss the approach before talking to the elders themselves. A common pitfall in an easy transition to assisted living is siblings giving the elder mixed messages about whether they should stay home or move. Build a unified family team with the same goal: providing the best care possible for your loved ones.
2. Start the Conversation Early
While you may not look forward to initiating this conversation, having it when you first notice a decline in function is much better than waiting until there is a crisis. Aging expert and Registered Nurse Stella Mora Henry points this out in her excellent book, The Eldercare Handbook:
“Most families who come to see me simply did not expect this to happen. They do not know what questions to ask or what to look for in a facility, but their situation is often urgent. Hospitals frequently give only twenty-four hours’ notice to find a care facility.”
Don’t put yourself and your family in the stressful situation of deciding on a care facility in a day. Start researching options early.
3. Be Patient
Don’t be discouraged if the first conversation doesn’t go well or is met with a lot of resistance. Unless the situation is urgent, you can take a step back and wait to bring up the move again at a later date. It may take an incident like having a fall, or getting the electricity shut off because they forgot to pay the bill before your parent recognizes that they need assistance.
4. See Each Other’s Points of View
Empathy, by definition, means the ability to share someone else’s feelings. Approach this conversation by asking your parent about their concerns. Are they worried about losing their independence? Do they feel overwhelmed by maintenance, but not ready to sell the family home? Are they worried about switching roles from caregiver to care receiver? Also share your feelings with them. Are you stressed out and worried about them living alone? Many parents don’t want to be a burden, and may not realize that by maintaining their independence they are actually causing you more concern by staying alone in their own home.
5. Review Options
The best way to make an informed decision when the time comes is researching options in advance. Ask your seniors to take tours of potential assisted living facilities with you. Encourage them to visit friends who have moved into new places and ask them what they think about that location. If you’re getting closer to an actual senior move, look for facilities that let residents stay for a week or a month to test out the fit before they sell their home.
6. Discuss the Actual Move
By talking through the logistics of downsizing and moving you can help your elder visualize and accept a new beginning. Discuss how you will approach selling the house, evaluate senior moving services together and present fun ideas like using a furniture shipping professional to deliver the prized family dining table to a grandchild who just bought their first home.
Overall, approach this conversation with respect and empathy and you’re likely to get the same in return from your loved one.