If you haven’t started the conversation about senior living, and you think it’s going to be a sensitive one, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you’re understood.
Choose the right person to lead the conversation
First, ask yourself whether you’re the right one to start the conversation.
Can things get a little emotionally charged between you and your loved one? If so, is there someone else who may be a better bet to start the conversation, such as another family member or even a close friend of your parent? Is there a sibling who always seems to be able to get through best to Mom, or a cousin your dad always relates well with?
Different personalities may have different approaches to this discussion topic, but the message should be the same. Sometimes the messenger just needs to be a neutral party your loved one will listen to.
If things have dissolved into unproductive arguing every time you’ve broached the topic with your loved one, think of the one person they’ll listen to, and ask them to lead the discussion. That means the immediate family may need to take a backseat during the conversation. Instead, consider reaching out to trusted people such as a family pastor or priest, your loved one’s physician, or long-term friends.
Keep the conversation positive and as comfortable as possible.
Make sure your conversation doesn’t look like an intervention—keep it positive and comfortable. Take your loved one’s fears and anxieties into consideration, and validate their feelings.
When you have the conversation matters. A quiet afternoon on neutral territory works best—do not save this for cousin Emily’s wedding or Uncle Marvin’s retirement party. When strong emotions and family are involved, it can get complicated.
Consider the advantages and disadvantages of a private conversation vs. a team effort.
Although you should involve other family members and experts in the overall decision about whether senior living is desired or necessary, the conversation may need to be more private—and it definitely needs to be respectful.
Your parent or loved one may express a readiness for senior living, but they still can’t seem to make the change. This is where a private, one-on-one conversation may be most appropriate. They want to make the decision, but they don’t want an audience. You know your loved one—if they are adamant about privacy, make the conversation private.
On the other hand, if you know a conversation will only be effective as a group effort, gather your troops and make a plan, including:
- Deciding who is the best person to lead the conversation to make it most productive
- Getting everyone to agree to not waver from the bottom line
- Preparing reasonable answers for reasonable objections
No matter whether you choose a private or a group conversation, make sure you keep it as positive and as comfortable as possible.