How to have “the talk” with a loved one
Knowing when to discuss retirement community options with your loved one can be tough. And figuring out the right approach is even harder.
Blue Harbor staff members have so much experience with so many seniors, you can count on our expertise to help you through.
You’ve probably already seen some warning signs that assisted living will soon be needed. Perhaps your loved one has taken a fall or has been hospitalized. Maybe after checking in with them, you’ve noticed that the fridge isn’t stocked with food, or medication prescriptions aren’t being filled, or bills aren't being paid. If so, you know the time has come to have the talk.
When the signs aren’t obvious, you are still responsible for taking control of the situation and making the decision for your loved one. Then the question is, are they thriving or just surviving? If they are only surviving, it’s time for the talk. Many times, you’ll figure this out after a holiday or after some extra time spent with your loved one.
When you know you must go ahead and start the discussion, here are a few guidelines we’ve found helpful.
Bring up the topic before you need to. Don’t wait until something has happened, such as a fall or a significant memory lapse. Elderly people, like all of us, can be defensive at a time like that—and not at all open to new ideas. If you just mention the idea of downsizing or how assisted living could be a positive step, when there isn’t any other pressure, you may find your loved one more open to the idea the next time you talk about it.
However, don’t hesitate if there has been a close call. Perhaps there was a fall, but no injury. Now may be the right time to say, “I’d feel so much better if you had other people around all the time.” You don’t need to push, but you should be ready to talk.
Realize that it will be emotional. So what you say must come from the heart, but you have to be prepared to answer their questions. Your loved one will likely be struggling with feelings about their legacy, as well as their sense of independence and control. They’re likely to ask, “How will I pay for a move?” “Why would I leave the home I've been in for so long?” You need to have your thoughts clear in order to give helpful answers.
Ask for help. Most people need help with presenting the idea of assisted living and having the right language for the initial talk. If it goes wrong, there could be a lot of resistance. Your best option is to call a Blue Harbor Community Relations Manager at a local senior care residence and talk through any questions you may have. They have so much experience dealing with seniors, they would be a great resource for you as you prepare for the talk.
Get everyone on your team. Another advocate you can enlist is your loved one’s doctor. Schedule an appointment alone—so you can discuss the warning signs you’ve seen. Then, at their next scheduled appointment, your loved one will hear from their own physician that they should consider assisted living. A doctor often has more influence than even you have. Are there other people your loved one trusts? Perhaps a priest or pastor, or another friend? Again, people outside the family can have more impact than grown children.
Bring your loved one in for a visit. Of course, this is relatively easy if they have a friend or acquaintance who already lives in an assisted living community. But, even if they don’t know anyone, you can invite them to a free lunch. Just tell your loved one that you want to take them out to lunch, and then bring them to a potential senior care center for lunch. Break down the barriers of resistance by making it a casual lunch. Then take a tour. After all, you’re already there! Check for events at potential senior care centers your loved one might be interested in. This helps them see how they might fit in.
When you tour, be enthusiastic! Help them to visualize their own furniture in the apartment. Talk about how much safer they will be in this environment, and how much more they can relax when they don’t have to worry about home and yard upkeep.
Remember, one of your best resources is your local Blue Harbor Community Relations Manager. Helping you talk to your aging parent or other loved one is part of what they do every day. Never hesitate to call.