How to address the stigma of moving into a senior living community.
We’ve all said it: “I don’t know how to talk to my parents” – this isn’t the first time you’ve gathered with friends and found yourself navigating the ins and outs of family dynamics – but now, it’s not about how your parents won’t let you get a tattoo or go to an unchaperoned party. Instead, the conversation centres around the fall your dad had in the backyard, and that your mom left the stove on overnight twice in the last week. Now, you’re faced with acknowledging your parents are getting older and you’re figuring out how to talk about other tough stuff: that they may need help beyond you (or they) are capable of.
How do you start THAT conversation?
It’s never easy to navigate a discussion that involves a major life shift, especially one that centres around your parents letting go of what’s likely is their biggest possession: their house – and all the memories it contains. Suddenly, they are bombarded with the prospect of losing their home, their independence, and their sense of control. The feeling of defeat and loss is palpable – and so is the desire to resist.
Often, this discussion is left to the last minute because the process of transition is overwhelming. A google search doesn’t necessarily help to sift through the deluge of information – there’s new and confusing terminology, and an apparent lack of clarity or guidance navigating through the process. With so many variables, it can feel impossible to find a straight answer, which makes it even easier to delay making a decision. Unfortunately, it’s all too common that a sudden change in health forces the issue and with it, the need for a rushed decision, limiting the options available.
To be sure, for some this may be a difficult talk, and it will likely be a conversation you have more than once. However, taking the time to plan for and fully consider the options for post-retirement living will ensure basic needs and desires can be met. Making plans ahead of time may also help address the risks and common concerns your parents are facing: isolation, injury, and even neglect. Financial security and sustainability is another important reason to plan ahead. Moreover, it will help you and your loved ones understand your loved one’s goals in their later years and most importantly, empower them to take charge of the decision-making process.
Have a strategy
Coming prepared will help you approach the conversation tactfully, and keep the focus on your parent’s changing needs, leaving the door open for an ongoing discussion, allowing your parents to have time and space to process their thoughts. A few things to keep in mind:
- Prepare yourself with some basic research and set the tone.
- Be empathetic and take their concerns seriously.
- Talk to friends and family who’ve started the journey already – there’s a chance they have some great insights and can offer support.
- Show, don’t tell: take tours of communities, and meet current residents who can speak to their experiences, and give your loved ones an idea of the benefits of community living.
Make a checklist
Laying out the pros and cons may help your parents look objectively at their current living arrangements.
Ask your parents about their wants and needs when it comes to other aspects of their lifestyle – outside of their physical care needs. This can help steer the conversation in a positive direction, and connect them to a community that takes their lifestyle and desires into account.
Instead of focusing solely on their physical safety, ask a few questions to show that you want to understand the big picture about is important to them. For example:
- What do your parents like to do in their spare time?
- What would they do if they had more time or resources for hobbies and recreation?
- Who is in their current social circle, and how often are they able to connect with friends and family?
- What do they love about their current living arrangements, and how could that be incorporated into a new home?
- What are their fears or concerns about living in a retirement community?
When you’re making a list, acknowledge that moving is a huge change in lifestyle and that it will take time to adjust. Your parents may feel overwhelmed about sorting through their possessions and leaving the family home, or fear that their relationships will be affected. Assure your parents that you will be there to support them, and their needs and wants will be considered throughout the process.
If you present your loved ones with some expert advice, and get them involved in the decision-making process, your chances to align their desires with a community that can meet their needs will be much higher. Being proactive will give you the best chance of finding a suitable solution before a health crisis leaves your loved ones with limited options, and will ultimately support them to live life on their terms longer, with purpose, and with less risk.
Where to start
When determining the type of care your loved one needs there are many factors to consider: level of care required, budget, private or funded care options, regional government thresholds and requirements, and a myriad of other factors that will influence the decision. United Active Living’s Starter’s Guide to Senior Care will help you understand the basics, and prepare you for “the talk”.
About United Active Living
United Active Living is a private senior retirement community that is designed for a variety of lifestyles including independent living, licensed assisted living, and memory care. At United, you live your life your way – our purpose-built communities allow you to focus on who you are and what you want in every step of your post-retirement journey.
Speak with one of our active living advisors about life in a United community. They can arrange tours of our Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities. If you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community, send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a future visit. We are happy to help!