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Talking with Seniors About Assisted Living


Children and their parents tend to have many difficult conversations. There’s the talk about the birds and the bees, for one, and with teenage children or even adult children, there are discussions on setting rules and respecting boundaries. In all of these instances, the parents are the ones who have the authority and who are in charge. They care financially and even physically for their children.

Later on, the roles are somewhat reversed. Parents may no longer be capable of caring for themselves; like children or teenagers, they may think they are capable of much more than they actually are. Whether you are the adult child of a senior citizen, another family member or a friend, having conversations about assisted living can be challenging. Here are some approaches.

Start Early

It’s easy to put things off until they become big problems. However, it’s great to start assisted living talks early, even if senior citizens are still capable of caring for themselves. A mention on your part during family dinner such as, “I heard today that Mr. Jones is going into a home. He hated leaving his house, but it was hard for his kids to care for him,” could stick in your parents’ minds. Hopefully, it would lead them to add their input.

Starting proactively means that discussions on assisted living are ongoing and less emotionally charged. Seniors are empowered and have more say in where they might go. Transitions can be much easier.

Strike a Bargain

Often, seniors become stubborn and order you to stop all talks about assisted living. In such cases, continuing on probably does more harm than it helps. Instead, strike a bargain. You could say, “I understand why you don’t want me to mention this anymore. So how about this? We stop by three places tomorrow, and I’ll shut up after that. Promise.”

This tactic is best used when a senior is in need of help; it is less effective on a parent who is still independent and active.

Practice Understanding

  • “I’ll never see you.”
  • “These places are weird.”
  • “I’ll be bored.”

The above three are just a few common complaints that seniors make about assisted living. Express that you understand their concerns rather than dismissing them out of hand with comments such as, “I’ll visit,” or “You’ll adjust. That’s life.”

You could say, “It won’t be home, that’s for sure. But it’ll mean so much to me knowing you are safe, and we’ll find a place you feel comfortable in.”

Give Other Options

No one likes feeling restricted or trapped. So when you bring up assisted living, list other options. In-home caretakers are one possibility, as are phrases such as, “retirement-style living” and “community living.”

In the best-case scenarios, the seniors in your life will realize on their own that they need help. They may even start such discussions while they are in good shape. In many cases, though, you’ll need to open these types of talks and practice a lot of understanding and patience.