Transition is hard, at any stage of life. When considering senior living, there are more layers to it, and often there is a process involved. It isn’t a single conversation, or decision that’s made in an instance. If you’ve been wondering where or how to start the senior living conversation with your loved one, we have some tips that should help – this is the language we speak daily at Walker Methodist. We know how you feel.
1. Bring it Up Freely
Even if your loved one is currently at home and doesn’t “need” to transition, it’s a great time to bring up the topic. Speak generally, and ask questions. “Hey, Dad. Have you ever thought about your ideal living arrangement, outside of this house?” Chances are, yes, he’s been thinking about the what-ifs too, but hasn’t shared any of his thought process. If you’re worried about reactions on bringing the topic up, your loved one might have those same feelings on how it affects you, too.
2. Senior Living is a Lifestyle
People often have the misperception that a transition to senior living comes as a result of a cause or incident. For example, a health concern, or an inability to manage an entire household anymore. That is not the case at all. The decision to move to senior living can be made at any time. Adults aged 55 and up choose to move to communities at whatever point in life they wish, and on their terms. Sometimes the move happens when individuals desire more interaction and socialization in life, or to physically move closer to families and friends. Other times it happens at retirement. It’s a matter of personal preference.
3. Recognize What Your Loved One is Looking For
A lot of seniors fear losing their independence. It may be the resounding theme in the conversations you have. Knowing what they fear, and how the right senior living community can alleviate that fear of the unknown, is part of the process. Your loved one may think their daily routines or control will change when they move to senior living, but independence is their right regardless of location. Most Residents feel more independent and relaxed living in maintenance free communities and love the time they have for all the things they have always wanted to do!
4. Familiarize Yourself with Senior Living Options
Senior living is a broad term for the options available to individuals aged 55 and older. This encompasses everything from independent living to memory care. Conduct research on the options so you can speak on the differences from one level to the next. Your loved one might think senior living equals a nursing home, in a non-private room, for example, when senior living actually means endless options for living arrangements and access to programs, activities, and support. Just clearing up the misconception of what senior living actually is will help loosen the conversation.
5. Have an Open, Consistent Point of View
Contact all family members and others who are important to your loved one and share with them that you’re in the process of having the conversation. This provides unity and collaboration if others have ideas or feelings on the topic of their own. Getting input and mutual support helps ensure your loved one’s needs, wishes, and best interest are always at heart. Remember, this is an ongoing process, not a decision that needs to be made solely by you or others; you just want to make sure that everyone important to your loved one are on the same page, and aware of the topic.
6. Be Sensitive and Empathetic
Look at it from your loved one’s perspective. Change is hard. Especially when there are a lot of unknown detail involved. A transition to senior living can seem so overwhelming and unclear, so start small and gently. Listen more than you speak, and gauge from any conversations you have the points that seem to cause the most stress or concern. If finances or putting the home on the market presents your loved one with extra worry or dismissal, come back to it at a different time, or in a different way. You know your loved one best; trust the process.