Have mom or dad been struggling to get around the home they’ve lived in for years? Or, are they getting confused or overwhelmed taking care of themselves or each other? If so, it may be time to have the talk.
Confronting your parents on a possible move to independent or assisted living, or even nursing care if the situation calls for it, can be a touchy business. Many aging parents associate such communities with the infamous title of “the home.” It bears a strong negative connotation, especially since many homes didn’t always have the best standards for care. Mom or dad doesn’t want to be just a number, and they certainly don’t want to lose their independence.
The good news is that aging care has drastically altered and improved over the years. Many communities are moving away from the old ways and putting their care, and a welcoming, home-like atmosphere, first. Of course, there will always be exceptions, so your research and take caution when finding the right place.
A good way to begin the conversation is to observe the specific situation and see it from mom or dad’s point of view. Many older parents hold fast to their pride and don’t see that they need help since they’ve managed for so long on their own. It’s even more complicated if age-related memory loss is factor. A calm and reassuring demeanor, along with understanding and compassion, will go a long way. Try to make them feel validated and safe. If you’re finding it difficult to do so, you may want to consult a therapist or channel your frustrations into something productive. Just be sure you’re not taking it out on them.
As soon as possible, begin asking questions and see where they see themselves headed. Early intervention or planning can save a lot of heartache later. Asking, “Where do you see yourself in a few years?” or “are you planning on aging in place?” is good way to start.
Patience is key to getting the information you need from them, and to figuring out a solution that is safe, cost-effective and beneficial to both of you. It’s also important to just listen sometimes, and ask probing questions. Is the reason they haven’t moved due to pride? Or is it a fear of being alone? Or having no privacy? As soon as you understand their concerns, it’s much easier to figure out the next step.
If you’re having problems gaining the necessary information and developing a rapport, consider bringing in a third-party professional. A long-trusted doctor or family friend could be a good mediator, since they know your loved one well and have their best interests at heart. Sometimes hearing it from others goes a long way to realizing you need help.
Once they seem more open to the idea of moving, it’s a good idea to get them inside a potential home, if possible. A good community will offer a free tour of their facilities, so your parents can see what their new home would look like, and feel less intimidated.
If you don’t have much knowledge or experience with senior living options, it’s best to meet with a professional, like a senior housing placement specialist. CarePatrol of Baltimore is one of many organizations that offer free senior housing placement. They meet with you or your loved one, determine their needs and price range, and suggest potential matches. They will also accompany you on tours, explain the communities’ features and services, and help you ask the right questions. It’s especially helpful to have them weed out any particularly bad matches that don’t fit your price range or needs, saving you a lot of time and frustration.
CarePatrol professionals can also help convince your loved one that moving can be a good thing, by explaining the many benefits these communities provide. For example, not being responsible for cooking, cleaning and laundry, frees up a lot of time to meet new friends, exercise regularly, play games and try new hobbies. Both medical and therapeutic help is available if they need it, and many doctors make “house calls” to the communities.
Unless the situation is dire, don’t be pushy when broaching this subject. It’s best to get your parent to come to this realization themselves. Even with all the best features in the world, a senior community can feel like a prison for an unwilling resident. Consider asking friends or acquaintances for their positive testimonials and experiences with senior communities, and see if the potential matches allow you to bring items from home to personalize living quarters. The best conversations with your aging parents involve patience, empathy and kindness.
If you or your loved one needs help from a senior housing placement specialist, contact CarePatrol of Baltimore’s Paula Sotir, CSA, at (410) 844-0800 or [email protected]. You can also find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CarePatrolBaltimore.