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Kaplan 7-18-23_Having the Conversation About Senior Living (1)The conversation about senior living is one that we could argue is dreaded as much by adult children as it is by the parent. It’s a subject that we get many questions about. From whether or not it’s time to have the conversation at all to how to bring it up to how to overcome your parent’s hesitations and more, everyone wants to know the right way to go about it. The truth is, there’s not necessarily one right way to have the conversation about senior living because every family’s circumstances are different. That doesn’t mean you can’t make the conversation easier. Answers to these commonly asked questions can help. 

The conversation about senior living: your questions answered 

Q. When is the right time to have the conversation about senior living? 

A. Sooner rather than later. Many families feel so uncomfortable about the subject that they put it off altogether. But waiting until a crisis happens can actually cause even more stress, not to mention limit your options. Instead, we recommend taking a proactive approach. At a minimum, consider having the conversation if you begin to see your parent’s health decline, they start struggling with daily activities on their own, the house is becoming too much to manage, and/or you’re concerned about their safety at home.

Q. How do I start the conversation about senior living with my parents? 

A. Most people envision the conversation about senior living as one big talk. However, we recommend starting with small conversations that are about your parent and what they want for the future. Consider these questions, for example:

  • Do you ever worry about living alone?  
  • How do you feel about managing the house and yard on your own? 
  • Do you still enjoy cooking for yourself? 
  • Are you able to connect with friends as much as you’d like?  

The key is to know when to speak, when to listen, and when to back off until the next conversation. You’ll get further by saying less and listening more in these conversations. 

Q. Why is it so hard to have this conversation with my parent?

A. There are several reasons. The most obvious is that you don’t want to upset them, make them feel old, or like you’re trying to send them away. It’s also hard because it makes us face our own fears about our parents getting older, not to mention our own mortality. Plus, it can be uncomfortable when the dynamic between you and your loved one changes and you move from child to decision-maker. Then there’s the guilt adult children often feel about not being able to be full-time caregivers or uprooting their parents when they’re struggling the most. It’s a complex conversation with many emotions on both sides.

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Q. How do I keep the conversation about senior living from becoming an argument?

A. Not only is this an emotional conversation for everyone, but it can also be downright scary for your parent to think about getting older and making such a significant change. It’s helpful to put yourself in their shoes. Some of the most common aging fears include loss of independence, declining health, fear of being isolated and lonely and running out of money. Often if your parent’s reaction is anger, it’s based on fear as a defense. The best way to handle it is to ask open-ended questions, listen and validate: “This is a tough subject to think about; it’s tough for me too.” Statements like this can help put into perspective that you’re also affected by this. But if you feel tempers rising, know when to stop. That’s another benefit of talking about senior living sooner; you can take your time and slowly step up the conversations.

Q. How do I balance health and safety for my parent and respect their need for independence during the conversation about senior living?

A. First, figure out what independence looks like for your parent. Again, the conversation isn’t about pushing your ideas onto them but listening and validating their opinions and concerns. Let them know that your goal is to help them maintain as much independence as possible, but it may also mean a shift in perspective of independence. Sometimes, having help at your fingertips makes you feel more independent. We find that residents often feel like they’ve gotten their independence back because everything they need is right here, and they don’t have to call family, friends, or neighbors for help all the time.

Q. How do I address some of my parent’s hesitations about senior living during the conversation?

A. Keeping a positive focus as much as possible during the conversation is key. If you’ve asked some of those questions as we recommended above, you likely know what might appeal to your parent in a community and how senior living might help them get more out of life. Whether it’s maintenance-free living, a convenient, active, and social lifestyle, amenities that make your parent feel pampered, a focus on healthy aging, peace of mind that support is always at hand, or all of the above, there are plenty of positives for them. 

What’s more, there are a lot of misperceptions about senior living, so it’s important to educate on the reality right off the bat. We’ve also found that including your parent as much as possible in the process is helpful. Give them a say in choosing the community, what they are bringing, what they are keeping, how they’ll make their new space their own, etc. This gives them more ownership and confidence in the decision. 

Q. My parent is not receptive to senior living, no matter how often we talk. Is there an objective third party or a professional who can help? 

A. Yes! You may not realize that the sales counselors in the communities you are considering aren’t just there to ‘sell’ you; at least ours aren’t. We are in the trenches daily and can help you with ideas, resources to educate, and/or answers to your questions. Also professional case managers and geriatric psychologists can help as well. We believe one of the best resources for a hesitant parent is to reach out to friends, neighbors, and/or colleagues who have gone through this themselves with their parents. Don’t forget; a community tour can also help them get a true feel for the environment.

For more information on having the conversation about senior living, download our Choosing the Right Community Guide today! 


Click here to download our Choosing The Right Senior Living Community guide


Written by All American