5 Ways to Approach Your Loved One About Senior Living

If you’ve noticed your loved one is not thriving at home because they are lonely, need additional assistance with daily tasks, or aren’t eating well, a senior living community can offer an excellent solution. However, if you’ve tried bringing up senior living and you’re meeting resistance from your loved one, you might end up feeling frustrated, anxious, or even angry.

While older adults nowadays are often spearheading their own decision to move to a senior living community, some struggle with the thought of leaving their home. This is common, of course, but it can become quite an obstacle to getting them the extra support they need—support that’s available at a senior living community. 

If you are finding that your conversations about senior living aren’t going well, you might need to readjust your approach. We’ve pulled together five ways you might be able to reframe your perspective or begin a conversation that leads to a good discussion instead of frustration.

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1. Listen to Understand

Perhaps the biggest barrier to productive conversations about senior living is the absence of listening to understand the older adult’s point of view. 

Almost all older adults want to stay at home for as long as possible. Home is a symbol of comfort and stability. It is difficult to consider leaving a familiar home and transitioning to a senior living community. This is likely a concern that your loved one has when they initially begin to think about senior living. 

However, not all older adults resist senior living just because they want to stay at home. Other times, they have had a negative experience with senior living, they may be worried about financial factors, or they simply haven’t been to a community in the past few decades which gives them an outdated, inaccurate perspective of what senior living communities are today.

In order to understand the objections or concerns your loved one has, you need to commit to genuinely listening from a place of non-judgment. Ask open-ended questions instead of ones that can be answered with a quick yes or no, which will get them talking more about their views and worries. 

You’ll not only hear those thoughts from their point of view, but you’ll also perhaps recognize which of their concerns are coming from a place of fear. Senior living can initially sound like a scary transition. Older adults might be wondering how they will make new friends, if they can afford the expense, or if they will enjoy living in a downsized home. 

It is unrealistic to think that you can address each of their concerns and provide complete comfort in one conversation. Instead, plan on taking the time they need to process through their worries. If you are able to understand what they are worried about and why, you’ll productively shape your conversations accordingly moving forward.

2. Take a Break from the Conversation

If your initial conversations about senior living haven’t gone over well, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to bring it up every time you visit your loved one. Although it’s certainly ideal that older adults move into a senior living community before a medical crisis, so that they can spend time cultivating friendships and enjoying the experiences that come with community living, you also don’t have to rush the process.

If you are constantly having the same conversation about senior living over and over again, you and your loved one can end up feeling resentful toward one another and perhaps even find yourselves avoiding visits. Instead, remember that you can take a break. 

Talk about something else for a while. Return to your typical interactions with one another and let the topic rest for an afternoon, or for the next few visits. You can always return to the conversation later, after you have spent time enjoying one another’s company.

3. Don’t Be the “Bad Guy”

As an adult child, you might feel uncomfortable sliding into a caregiver role for your loved one. This is common and can leave many adult children feeling like the “bad guy” when they need to make difficult recommendations for next steps that they believe could enhance quality of life, wellness, or socialization for their loved one.

The good news is that you don’t have to take on that “bad guy” role. Instead, you can enlist the assistance of your loved one’s physician, physical therapist, or other member of their care team that they trust. All too often, they’ll better receive recommendations for senior living options from a beloved doctor than if they hear it from you.

Don’t be afraid to bring up your concerns to your loved one’s care team, either alone or beside your loved one. The doctor knows them and their diagnoses, so they can offer recommendations based on their current and future needs.

4. Give Specifics

If your loved one is refusing senior living care, another approach to take is to get specific about your concerns during your conversations about the topic. For example, if you tell your loved one you are worried about their safety, it is not as impactful as if you discuss their three falls in the past six months.

Be sure you keep the specific details focused on your loved one’s health and not necessarily how it affects you. For example, instead of saying you’ve been up all night worried about them, you should talk about how the last fall they had led to a long hospital stay that made them worried about returning home, where they wouldn’t have around-the-clock care. 

Although your feelings certainly matter, they aren’t always the best way to help your loved one see things from your point of view. Keep your concerns based on specific events, and your loved one will be more likely to see things from your perspective.

5. Understand the Options

In most cases, older adults don’t understand the senior living options that are available today. They are relying on their experience when they perhaps visited their own mother in a clinical and sterile nursing home forty years ago, and they don’t realize that today’s senior living communities are more like all-inclusive resorts than a hospital. Often, once they see the opportunities for vibrant and healthy community living, older adults are more intrigued by that potential solution.

The answer is helping them see what today’s senior living communities are all about. You can work toward educating your loved one on the different options available, including independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Then, you can determine together which amenities and services might interest them the most. 

Our guide Understanding Senior Living Lifestyle Options is an excellent resource to have on hand when you chat. You’ll both learn more about the options available, including the benefits of each. You can enhance interest by offering to take them to a tour, event, or meal at a local senior living community so they can experience the lifestyle firsthand. 

Remember: Stay patient, keep listening, and offer details about senior living opportunities and amenities. You’ll find that you and your loved one can work toward a resolution together sooner than you might think. 

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