6 Tips for Talking to a Parent About Assisted Living

Caregiver child talking with senior parent about assisted living

If you’re hesitant to have the conversation with a parent about assisted living, you’re not the only one. Moving a parent from the home they’ve lived in for years (or even decades) isn’t an easy task.

If you are reading this article, you’ve likely thought about the difficult conversation ahead of you, and how your parent might respond.  Though it isn’t an easy conversation to have, consider these tips to help make it a successful one.

1. Get all the siblings on board

The best way to reassure a reluctant parent that it’s time to consider assisted living is for all siblings to be on board with the decision. Seemingly forgotten sibling conflicts might reappear at this time, and conflict can get especially acute if one sibling is seen as dominating care decisions or isolating a parent. So before you talk to your parent, talk to your siblings. Even if you can’t achieve unanimity, your pre-emptive approach to problem-solving with your siblings can prevent unwanted conflict amongst siblings when talking to your parent.

2. Do your research

Your parent will likely have a lot of questions once you begin discussing assisted living with them.  Come prepared. Have some options in mind for them to consider, but be sure to make mom or dad a part of the process in making the final selection. Know what options are available, what levels of care are available and what types of activities and recreation are offered. Research the financial side of things and have an idea of approximately what each option would cost and how your loved one might pay for it.

3. Have a plan for starting the conversation

Sometimes just finding a way to start the conversation can be the hardest part. Seek advice from a friend who has been through the same process, or start the conversation by gently bringing up a specific concern — e.g., the disrepair of the house, a recent car accident, missed medications. Depending on how you think your parent might react, consider starting the conversation with a question like, “How do you feel about living here all by yourself, mom?”.

4. Listen

Be prepared to be a good listener.  The first time you approach the conversation you may encounter tears, frustration or even anger.  Being supportive, but clearly communicating why you are concerned is key.  Remember that should be a conversation, not an ambush. Often, parents are fearful of the loss of their autonomy. As much as you can, frame the benefits of assisted living as resources that help older adults preserve their autonomy.

5. Be patient

You don’t have to talk your parent into anything all at once. You’ve been building up to this conversation for a while, but it’s all new to them. Emphasize though, that the sooner they engage with the planning process, the better the options they have. Most people neglect planning for long-term care until it’s too late and a crisis forces them into it.

6. Hire an expert

Sometimes a parent just isn’t going to listen to their own child. It’s hard to take life advice from someone you’ve raised. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t escalate the conversation into an argument. Consider hiring a visiting nurse to assess the situation, or utilize the resources available at one of the assisted living communities you were considering. They’ve worked with families just like yours in similar situations.

If you follow all these tips, your conversation might still be difficult. It might not go the way you want it to. That’s OK. It’s about getting it right in the end, not winning an argument right now. So don’t give up. Give your parent time to think and let them know you love them and want them to be happy, healthy and safe.

If assisted living is a newer concept to you, check out our latest eBook for more information on what assisted living can offer you and your loved one. 

Definitive Guide to Assisted Living