Starting the conversation

How to talk to your aging loved ones about senior living

Having the “senior care conversation” with aging loved ones can be tough and uncomfortable. If not done right, it can lead to a combative “us vs. them” dialogue with both sides digging in.

Nobody wants that.

The keys to a constructive conversation about senior living options lie in the approach to the presentation and back-and-forth discussion. Here are some tips on how to make the experience as supportive and collaborative as possible.

Prepare. Before you sit down with your loved ones, make sure you are prepared for the conversation. Research the different senior care options available. Understand all of the pros and cons of each and be ready to gently answer any questions – or challenges – your loved one may have.

Meet in person when possible. This is not a conversation you want to have over the phone. Your loved ones will feel safer if they can talk face-to-face about a matter like this. Additionally, you will be able to gauge their body language and make adjustments in tone or subject matter to get the conversation back on a collaborative track if needed.

Get off to the right start. Like all difficult conversations, the hard part is how to begin to talk to your loved one about senior living options. Ease into it with conversation starters designed to gently broach the subject. Here are some topics and questions that provide a smooth runway:

  • How are you doing at home? Do you still feel safe? (Discuss medication management; increasing potential for, or history of, falls; bathtub and shower concerns; crime, if relevant.)
  • Are you lonely at all? Do you share enough time with people your age? Would you like to?
  • Do you still enjoy driving? Would you be interested in other transportation options?
  • Would you like some help with housekeeping and laundry?

Listen. Your aging loved ones don’t want your sympathy. They want your empathy. Listen intently to their anxieties and concerns and try to put yourself in their place. Change is hard for everyone, and this life transition can be filled with all kinds of fears. Don’t dismiss them.

Address their needs. Emotional and social needs: A strong social network is necessary for overall health and well-being for anyone. Aging can mean less contact with friends and neighbors. And because it often makes one less comfortable “getting out there” in social situations, it can lead to isolation and loneliness. Senior living offers them the opportunity to be a part of a community and meet new people.

Physical needs: For anyone, aging means needing more help, even in daily activities like bathing, cooking, laundry, and driving. At some point, senior living options like assisted living may make the best sense for fulfilling these tasks.

Financial needs: There’s a perception that senior living must be paid for with the resident’s private funds, which can be daunting for someone on a fixed income. The good news is that there are many alternative options for funding. Your loved ones may qualify for other resources for financial help.

Be patient. Remember that although you’ve done research about senior living, this conversation may seem completely out of the blue for them. If so, it’s natural for them to feel defensive, especially since they’ve probably already established their own views on the subject.

This process might take some time. Your goal for this first conversation should be to simply leave them with something to consider. Don’t expect them to agree that senior living is where they belong right away.

Get advice. Talk to someone who’s had the senior living talk with their own loved ones, and learn from their experience. The senior care experts at your closest Heartis® Senior Care community are also well-equipped to answer all of your questions and coach you through the process. Contact your nearest Heartis Senior Living community for more information.