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How To Talk To Parents About Assisted Living

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Updated September 4, 2022 – It’s been a very hard pill for you to swallow, but you’ve finally gotten around to accepting that your elderly parents can’t do the things they used to anymore. Others see it too. The only ones who don’t see it are your parents themselves. You’re thinking it’s time for assisted living, but how do you convince them?

Here are some tips for talking to parents about assisted living:

  • Mention it before they need it
  • Use examples of mishaps to convince them
  • Play up the benefits
  • Get other loved ones involved
  • Take a tour of the facilities 

This guide will provide lots of useful information for adult children who are on the cusp of discussing assisted living with an aging parent.

We’ll talk about when adults need assisted living, the best ways to broach these difficult conversations, and how to help older adults see that assisted living is a good idea.

Let’s get right into it!  

When Should Parents Move To Assisted Living?

According to assisted living resource SeniorAdvice, data from the American Health Care Association shares that most seniors who enter a senior living community are between 75 and 85.

That said, there is no one particular age where it’s appropriate for seniors to move into assisted living. Rather, you should watch out for a variety of signs. 

A number of factors will tell you when it’s time to begin those tough conversations about assisted living.

Lack Of Personal Hygiene

The next time you visit your senior parents, pay attention to their hygiene. Do their clothes look rumpled, wrinkled, and lived-in? They might not have showered or changed their garments for some time.

Does their hair look dirty? What about their skin? Can you smell an odorous aroma from their breath? 

If your parents were very hygienic before, then a sudden change in their level of personal care can be quite concerning. 

It could be that undiagnosed health issues or that the changes that come with aging have made it hard for them to take care of themselves. 

A Messy House

Your parents always kept an immaculate house, which inspired your own cleaning habits today with your family.

Nowadays though, their house is anything but clean. Mail is popping every which way out of the mailbox. Dirt covers every floor and it looks like they may be hoarding items. Dust coats many surfaces like they haven’t been touched in a long time.

The kitchen sink is overrun with dishes, and the counter is covered with filthy pots and pans as well as takeout boxes. The bathroom is grimy and perhaps even moldy.

It’s very unlike your parents to suddenly stop caring about the cleanliness of their house like this.

Well, they may not have stopped caring, per se. Perhaps they physically cannot handle these daily tasks or the responsibilities of house maintenance anymore. 

If they have a condition such as dementia, that can also cause them to stop keeping up the house.  

Sudden Money Problems

Sure, your parents were known to splurge from time to time, but never like this.

They seem to have no regard for their savings, which they were accumulating for retirement. They’re chewing into their money, perhaps falling prey to scams or wasting money on random purchases that don’t make any sense to you or anyone else.

This is yet another sign that problems are afoot. 

Sharp Decline In Physical And/Or Cognitive Health 

Another unfortunate symptom you could possibly have noticed is that your parent’s health problems are taking a toll or their cognitive health has started to go downhill. 

They can’t get around with as much vigor as they used to even though they try to pretend they can.

Perhaps they isolate themselves for long periods because they’re wrestling with depression, or they’ve had a hard time relating to other family members and friends. 

Regardless, your senior parents could benefit from assisted living. 

Read our article on how Elderly Home Monitoring Devices might help until your parents agree to move into assisted living.

How Do You Tell A Parent They Need Assisted Living?

If you can admit the truth – that your aging family member isn’t as nimble on their feet or active as they used to be – then you’re already ahead of the game. 

…making this decision with your parent may not be an easy task. It might very well be the case that they aren’t as aware as you are of your concerns about their current living situation. Moreover, there is bound to be a fair bit of emotion surrounding the topic, as moving away from the home they have lived in for some time can be a difficult thought.

aboutinsider.com

Some adult children live in denial, which can only drag out the entire process of getting a senior relative into assisted living.

Once you’ve realized that it’s the right thing to explore senior care options with your parents, it’s time to get them onboard too. 

The best way to do that is to plant the seed early. Have the initial conversation years before a health crisis or other problem pops up and forces your parents into immediate assisted living. 

When you do this, you’re not trying to get them to make up their mind just yet. Instead, you’re simply informing your parents that this is a viable option. Discuss some benefits and leave it at that for now.

The seed is planted. To get it to grow, you need to bring up assisted living from time to time. 

Again, you’re not trying to push them to move right now. Just gently guide your senior parent towards eventually deciding that assisted living may eventually be right for them. 

Ideally, you want their decision to seem like it was their choice. This way, you don’t get as much push back and the transition will have a more positive outcome for them. 

For any sensitive topic, Dr. Dheeriya says, “It’s all about conversational tools. Ask people where they are at for that particular issue. And then ask if it’s okay to give your opinion. If given an opinion without asking first, people are more likely to be defensive. This way, they’re much more likely to hear what you have to say.”

torrancememorial.org (Ujjwala Dheeriya, MD, Medical Director and Outpatient Physician for Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s Palliative Care Program)

We can’t stress enough the importance of having this conversation early, though – while your parents are still able-bodied and able-minded, so they can make decisions of their own volition. 

More importantly, there’s not yet any of that urgency that can come about when your senior parents clearly cannot care for themselves anymore. 

You have the time to allow your parents to mull over this important choice so no one feels forced into it. 

How Do You Convince Your Parents To Go To Assisted Living?

Let’s say you tried planting the seed, so to speak, to get your parents interested in the idea of assisted living, but it didn’t work. Maybe your parents were always stubborn, and that hasn’t changed, even in their old age.

It’s time to be a little more persuasive. Per the intro, here are our helpful tips for approaching this sensitive topic.

Use Examples Of Recent Mishaps Or Incidents As A Learning Opportunity

Maybe your parents get their lights turned off because they’ve been behind on their electricity bills for months or your dad falls and narrowly avoids breaking his ankle when taking a walk. 

These concerning moments, as they mount up, are the perfect time to bring up the topic of assisted living. 

You can say something like, “Listen Mom [or Dad], you just barely avoided seriously hurting yourself on our daily walk yesterday. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen you unsteady on your feet. At an assisted living community, you could live in an environment that’s safer for you.”

Play Up The Benefits Of Assisted Living

Now is the time to really talk up the advantages of assisted living. You can’t go wrong promoting how much safer an assisted living facility would be compared to your parents’ currently messy house. 

You can also mention how a staff member would be available 24/7 to help your parents remember to take their medication or to assist them with activities of daily living, like showering and getting dressed. 

You want to make assisted living sound like Shangri-la, but don’t lie to your parents either. If you promise them that they’ll receive XYZ when it’s really ABC, they’re going to feel very betrayed by you.

Get Other Loved Ones Involved

Perhaps every time you mention the prospect of assisted living to your senior parents, they say that you’re the only one who sees the problems you do. 

If that’s the case, then by all means, involve others! Arrange a family meeting and ask your adult siblings to talk to your parents (here’s how to talk them about your aging parents).

Involve a third party by getting your parents’ doctors or other medical professionals to help, as well as friends and neighbors.

The more people who can corroborate what you’re saying, that your older parents need help, the harder it is for them to deny it. 

Take A Tour

Everyone has mental images in their heads when they think of assisted living. Your parents may feel like you’re sending them to prison because they don’t know what real assisted living communities are like.

I know this was a big deal to my father when he and I talked about him moving into an independent living community after my mom passed away. It was strictly a block of apartments, but because it was for senior citizens, he kept referring to it as, “putting me into a home.”

So we took a tour of the place I thought he’d love. I planned our tour during happy hour, when the residents gathered to socialize and listen to the piano player that often came to this particular senior community.

Once Dad realized it wasn’t much different than the single-family-home retirement community he already lived in, he was sold.

So visit some senior communities and set up tours of the assisted living residences you think are the right fit for your parents. Once they tour a few places, they’ll realize that what you’re offering to them isn’t a prison sentence. Like my father, they may be much more agreeable from there. 

Does Medicare Pay For Assisted Living?

Whew! You’ve successfully gotten your elderly parents to agree to live in an assisted living community. With that burden off your shoulders, you’ll feel about 10 pounds lighter and have gained some peace of mind.

Well, there’s still one more burden, and that’s the burden of cost. 

One or both of your senior parents have Medicare. Will this insurance pay for the cost of assisted living? 

According to the AARP, “Medicare-covered health services provided to assisted living residents are covered, as they would be for any Medicare beneficiary in any living situation. But Medicare will not pay for any of the costs of residency or of day-to-day custodial care such as help with bathing, dressing and eating.”

Unfortunately, if you were relying on Medicare to step in and offset the costs of assisted living, you won’t get that help. 

Where You Live Matters.org notes that monthly assisted living fees are about $4,000. That would cost you $48,000 a year.

For some older people, that could mean using their entire social security and retirement income to pay for assisted living. They would have no money left to pay for bills and other expenses. 

That’s simply not feasible.

Before you panic, know that you have other options. Long-term care insurance, life insurance, veteran’s benefits, and even contributions from other family members can make assisted living more affordable. 

Conclusion 

If you have stubborn senior parents who insist they’re fine when they’re clearly not, then talking about assisted living can be tough. Our best tip is to have the conversation early – long before your parents need to make a choice. 

This way, the idea of assisted living can grow on them, and they won’t feel like it’s been forced on them. 

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