Have the talk
Broaching the subject of assisted living probably won’t be an easy conversation to have with your parent, but these golden rules of conversation will really help. Timing is another factor. “When possible, I recommend adult children talk with their parents before a need arises for assisted living,” says Karen Whitehead, LMSW who has a private practice in Atlanta and has been through the transition process with her own mother. Whitehead recommends using “I messages” to defuse defensive reactions. “Rather than saying, ‘You can’t take care of the house anymore and you’re going to break a hip if you keep falling, say, ‘I’m concerned about your recent falls and all of the upkeep in the house,'” says Whitehead.
The prospect of moving to an assisted living facility is a difficult scenario to imagine for your parent. Finely tuned empathy skills are necessary to truly understand this life changing event. “Your parent has been living independently, taking care of others, raising a family, and taking care of a home for their entire lives,” says Julie L. Futrell, a clinical psychologist who specializes in geriatric care and the regional clinical director of Northern California for CHE Senior Psychological Services. “The experience of moving to an assisted living facility is often of feeling as though one is losing their independence and becoming reliant on another. Many elderly people feel distraught at the idea of becoming a “burden” for another, and many feel great shame and an accompanying loss of dignity,” notes Futrell. Reassure your parent how valuable they are to your family. Talk about the things that will stay the same. Maybe it’s the weekly card game she enjoys with the grandkids, the book club she has with friends or the cozy mittens she makes for family members at Christmas. These can all still be a part of her life in an assisted living setting.