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When it’s Time to Move: How to Talk to Your Aging Parents

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Making the decision to move to a senior living community is challenging. After all, how do you (and your parents) know it’s time? There is no clear answer, but conversations with your parents are imperative to managing this very emotional—and confusing—process. In fact, conversations can serve two separate purposes:

  • Conversations can provide insight into the general wellbeing of your parents (and whether it’s time to move).
  • Conversations can help you explain the benefits of a senior living community to your parents.

These aren’t easy conversations. Here are a few tips to guide a productive conversation:

Talk Early, Talk Often

Just like with most everything, it’s important to be honest and open from the start. Begin having regular conversations about your parents’ future before it sneaks up on you. Sometimes it may take awhile for your parents to grow comfortable with the idea of moving. Give them (and yourself) plenty of opportunities to discuss options and express ideas.

Keep Trying

Oftentimes, a parent resists making a major life change because he or she is comfortable in their own home or in their familiar routine. But, as time progresses, there may be opportunities to challenge that comfort. For example, winter can be tough for seniors. It might be beneficial to remind your parent about the extra effort that accompanies a tough season. Perhaps they aren’t interested in enduring another winter of shoveling or home maintenance?

Be a Team

If you have siblings or other family members who are key voices in these conversations, it’s important to ensure everyone is included and on the same page. Moving to a senior living community is a big lifestyle change and it’s imperative that all family members remain united together, but also empathetic to your parents’ concerns. After all, your parents need to understand that the entire family is looking out for their best interest and just working to help them stay safe and independent. Successful conversations will occur when your parents don’t feel bullied by the family, but instead validated by the family’s willingness to listen and work together.

Tip: Still not having any luck? Consider bringing in a third party, such as a family doctor, who can offer an expert opinion and an outside perspective.

Ask About the Small Things

It’s not always about the big issues, like an illness or an injury. Keep an eye, and ear, out for the small issues that may highlight bigger concerns. Ask Dad what he had for dinner. Is he still able to prepare healthy food? Ask Mom about her cleaning routine. Is she still capable of washing and sorting the laundry? Take these opportunities to remind parents that there are alternative options, such as dining services and staff support at a senior living community.

Address Their Fears

Perhaps a parent is worried that leaving home will mean the loss of independence, privacy, or a social life. Instead of brushing off their concerns, address them early and often. Reassure your parents that while a transition like this is a big change, many of these matters are misconceptions. Many senior living communities are intentionally designed to extend choice, independence, and a sense of belonging to seniors. They provide opportunities for connection and social engagement, as well as private, quiet and comfortable spaces for all residents.

If this seems overwhelming, consider rehearsing the conversation with friends and family. These are important dialogues, and it’s important to handle them with respect, education, and understanding.