Having The Conversation
As children, our parents worked hard and sacrificed for our well-being and livelihood. We were certain that one day it would be our turn to take care of them and sacrifice for them to live comfortably in their later years. But this is real life. We are already overworked, often underpaid and sacrificing for our own children now. We love our parents and want the best for them but also recognize that we, personally, may be unable to give them the time and attention they deserve.
Thankfully, there are assisted living facilities that provide both independence and assistance to our parents in areas where we may lack the means or resources such as such as cooking or transportation. If necessary, there are also nursing home options. Yet, actually talking about a transition like this can be quite daunting. As a son or daughter, we are thinking about our parents’ well-being although they perceive we are taking away their independence. Unfortunately, their independence is often something that at their age won’t return.
We just cannot simply ‘put our foot down’ and make the decision for them. We need to have a conversation with our parent(s) and do so in a respectful way. It should result in a conclusion that everyone can agree on. It’s important to have a clear idea of why you want to have this conversation as it will help you to describe and clarify your ideas throughout the conversation you have with your parent(s).
Start the conversation early, allow time
The first conversation should take place before an incident occurs. It can be difficult because it can leave your parent to assume you feel there is something wrong, even though nothing has happened. Laying the groundwork for a conversation about assisted living, or any other option, will make it easier to return to the conversation if and when the time comes. If an incident does happen and you have yet to talk to your parent, then that is okay too but it may be harder for them to accept that the incident is a catalyst for such an extreme change in lifestyle. Probably most important thing to remember is that this is not one conversation but a series of conversations and to certainly expect it to be revisited multiple times until a decision is made.
Use the 70-40 rule when in doubt
A good guideline for when this conversation should take place is the 70-40 rule. This is when a parent is 70+ years old and a son/daughter is 40+ years old. At this time, there needs to be a conversation about what to do when certain scenarios take place, such as a fall or forgetting to turn off a burner. But really, we know our parent better than an age rule and plus we have to keep in mind people are now living longer and growing more independent as they age. When in doubt, this is an excellent timing guideline to follow when you need to have a conversation with your parent about changes in lifestyle.
Be a partner, and keep your calm
Remember that you aren’t taking over the role as the parent. You, in this conversation, are their partner. This is critical because this will make the conversation easier. The goal should be an actual conversation, a back and forth between people that care for each other and want the best for each other. Also, remember to avoid any blame and frustration that you might be feeling toward your parent(s). If you have been doing a lot for your parent(s), whether it is driving them to doctor appointments or helping with groceries, you want to avoid bringing up that you are overworked and tired of helping them. They were probably overworked and tired when they were raising us and it may be misunderstood as a lack of respect or compassion on our part. Finally, remember to be supportive and ultimately, respect their thoughts and opinions.
You’ve made the decision to begin the conversations with your parent(s). Now, you’ve got to create the environment for this talk. First, reflect on the “why” behind your conversation and what the goals and action items will be. Think about how your parent(s) may react and be ready to respectfully handle it. Determine what the level of need is for your parent(s). Is it urgent that they move soon? Or is this something that can be postponed until they are ready? Finally, establishing a clear understanding of the wants and needs will help to better clarify what you want to express to Mom and Dad. Let’s focus on two key recommendations to help you begin this journey:
Make sure everyone is on the same page
If siblings, family members or friends are involved in the conversation, make sure everyone has an aligned understanding of the situation. This might mean a separate conversation with each one of them beforehand. Discussing this with them may feel like you are going behind your parents’ back or betraying them in some way. But this is not the case as it’s better to approach this conversation by having an idea of how the conversation is going to flow. Everyone will also be clear on the goals and objectives for the initial conversation. This will decrease the likelihood of people jumping to their emotions or having different ideas about what should take place. You don’t want your Mom or Dad to feel attacked in any way but in contrast, you want them to feel that everyone has their best interests at heart. Review with involved individuals that this not about your parent(s) immediately agreeing to pack their bags but that this is a series of conversations leading up to a decision. If an incident has already taken place and the need for assisted living is more urgent, let the group express both their love and fears so that it is understood why the family is coming together for this conversation. If you decide to have this exchange alone, just you and your parent(s), that is also fine but you may still want to let family know about the conversation you are planning. Oftentimes you are not the only person in the group that believes this conversation needs to happen and by having someone to role play or bounce ideas with can be helpful when you sit down with your parent(s).
Choose a comfortable place for the talk
Select a place where everyone is comfortable and naturally at ease. Be sure that outside influences or interruptions aren’t going to impact the course of the dialogue. Plus, it’s going to be a difficult talk and you want to make sure that your parent is in a peaceful, relaxing environment. It’s also critical that you have enough time for the conversation. Remember that this may take longer than planned, so clearing your schedule completely for that day should be considered. You don’t want to be forced to stop a rolling conversation because you have dinner plans or need to pick up the kids. And while your parent may understand that you have prior obligations, leaving before the conversation is thoroughly discussed can leave your parent feeling as though their needs are a chore or another item to cross off your to-do list.
Once you have a date, time, place and group together with clear goals and objectives, you’re on your way to a successful dialogue. You can finally sit down with confidence and discuss the needs, wants and concerns for their well-being and lifestyle.
Empathy means to identify with feelings, thoughts, attitudes of another. Understanding Mom or Dad’s emotions is crucial. Listening and acknowledging what they are expressing is just as meaningful. The ideas that come along with assisted living facilities are not always positive and you want to hear Mom and/or Dad out on this subject. Let them speak and do not take over the conversation, remember you are their partner and value their input throughout this process.
Ask open-ended questions
To really hear and understand what is being expressed, you need to ask open-ended questions. An open-ended question requires a substantial and thought out response. It is not a ‘yes or no question’ but asks your parent(s) to really think about their feelings, wants, and needs. Asking your parent, throughout the conversation, how they feel about certain aspects of their life and what they feel they need help with, will provide better insight to what is needed and what to look for in a facility. But also, it will help you to recognize where you need to support your parent(s) in this transition. It can uncover that maybe while you have been grocery shopping or driving them around, what they also needed was someone to watch TV with or have lunch with on a regular basis. Asking open-ended questions and listening to their answers will reveal valuable information regarding companionship or independence. Ultimately, it can help the family find the best fit facility for the long-run.
Reflect upon what you learned
Once you have listened with an empathic ear and asked the necessary questions, you should review and reflect on what was said. Since this is a series of conversations over time, the initial conversation will need to be picked up again at a later time. Finishing the conversation with a review of what has been said and accomplished can make the conversation easier to pick up again later. With a constant review of different wants, needs and concerns, you and your parent can come to a decision together. Once the conversation is over, you might realize that what may have been important while you were sitting in front of each other may seem miniscule and irrelevant when you are thinking about this alone.
Offer guidance and help
Keep in mind that while you may have already done a ton of research and have a list of facilities, this should not be brought up until the second or third conversation. The first conversation should really focus on thoughts, emotions, needs and wants. The following conversations can include going over a list of facilities and making plans to tour the narrowed down list. Offer up your time to research and visit places together. Also, set aside a time to discuss the pros and cons of places after you’ve toured each one. And always remember, throughout this process, to remind your parent(s) that you will be there before, during and after this transition. Let them know that you love and respect them and this transition is for their wellbeing and livelihood, because you want them to have a long, healthy and happy life.
You may be interested in other information about our communities or searching for assisted living. Take a look at our other information below to help you guide your decision. If you need help, don’t hesitate to call us at (877) 480-2244 to discuss your situation with a professional.