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How to Talk to Your Parent About a Move to Assisted Living

We all want to stay in our own homes for as long as we can. However, it’s not always in their best interest to do so. How do we talk with family members about the realities and dangers of staying at home once health is failing, and how do we convince them that a move to an assisted living center could be a very good, and positive option?

For many older adults, some in-home help and a personal alarm is sufficient to help them maintain a good quality of live. They are able to stay in their own home for years with a relatively small amount of help. Then, a spouse dies. The survivor is now truly alone. There’s no one to get help for them should they fall and can’t trigger their alarm. There are few opportunities to socialize. Meals become a chore, so they don’t eat well. Memory fails, and the stove doesn’t get turned off. The single elder, stubbornly clinging to the idea that their familiar home is best can often mean a sad and lonely existence.

Contrast this the experience in a good assisted living center, whether it’s a stand-alone building, one connected to a nursing home or a small family operation where only a few seniors board. In any of these situations, seniors can thrive because: They don’t have the responsibility of keeping up a home, so they are relieved of the need to hire help or let the house deteriorate. They have people around should they need medical help or other assistance. They have choices of good food and snacks with nutritional value. Most importantly, they make new friends and have an abundance of activities to choose to be active.

How do you go about convincing your parent that it’s time think about moving to assisted living?

  1. Plant the seed. Mention that there are options that could make life easier and more enjoyable.
  2. Offer to visit local assisted living centers with your parent, if he or she is willing, but don’t push it. Drop the subject if necessary, and wait for another day.
  3. Watch for a “teachable moment.” Did Mom fall, but escape getting badly hurt? Use that as a springboard for a conversation about safer housing options. Try not to push unless you consider this an emergency. It’s hard to wait, but you may need to before you gently try again.
  4. Check if your friends’ parent and friends of your parents live comfortably in an assisted living center nearby. Your parent may feel much better about moving if a friend already lives in the center.
  5. Even if they won’t know anyone, you can still take your parent to watch a group having fun playing cards or Wii bowling. Show off the social aspects of a good center. Keep it light and don’t force the issue. Tour more than one center if possible and ask your parent for input.
  6. Show interest in how much privacy a resident has. Ask about bringing furniture from home and how much room there is. Take measuring tapes and visualize, if you can see some rooms, how your parent’s room(s) would look. Show excitement, as you would do if you were helping your parent move to a new apartment, because that’s what you are doing.
  7. Stress the safety aspects.
  8. Point out there’s no yard to cleanup, but flowers can be tended to. There’s no need to call a plumber if the sink leaks, but there are plenty of things to do if people want. There’s plenty of freedom to be alone, and company when they desire it.
  9. If your family is close, have a meeting with your parent talk about the options. Make sure they have an opportunity to choose which center is a better fit for her.
  10. Enlist a family friend, spiritual leader, or geriatric care manger to chat with your parent and state the case for a move. A trusted third party may be able to make the right points when family is too close to the choice.

Be sensitive to your parent’s feelings. Leaving a home where he or she lived with a life partner, raised kids and had neighborhood friends is emotionally difficult. Whittling down a lifetime of possessions is hard. Be kind, be sensitive and try to make it be about your parent and not about you. It may also be appropriate to let your parent know that it will help you to know that he or she is safe. It’s the truth.

An article titled, “How to Convince Your Parent to Move to Assisted Living” contributed by Carol Bradley Bursack originally appeared on

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