Starting the Conversation with an Elderly Parent about Making a Move
As our parents age, it’s natural for us to become more concerned about their well-being. Are they living safely in their home? Should they consider moving to a senior living community? If you’re noticing any of the following, these are signs it may be time to consider alternative living options for your loved one.
- Dangerous habits – Leaving the stove on, not locking the front door, taking expired medications or neglecting to turn off a garaged car are all red flags that something may be wrong.
- Personal appearance and/or home in disarray – A cessation of normal personal hygiene and household cleanliness is often a sign your loved one needs help. This includes stacks of unopened mail and unpaid bills.
- Weight loss – An unintentional decline in weight may signal the onset of disease or a side effect of medications. It can lead to a decline in the quality of life as well as increased mortality.
- Lack of food – No food in the house may mean your loved one has lost interest in eating or needs assistance in getting to the grocery store.
- Expired medications – Take a look in your loved one’s medicine cabinet. Point out all expired medications. If there seems to be an excess of medications, ask your loved one what they’re for. If they aren’t sure, talk to your loved one’s physician and/or pharmacists to make sure the combination of drugs they’re taking is safe and necessary.
Starting a conversation about making a move can be awkward, in part because family roles have shifted. As a youngster, you had to listen to your parents giving advice and may have chosen to ignore their counsel at times. Now you want them to hear your concerns. Additionally, these are sensitive topics, where intentions can be easily misunderstood – parents may mistake a concern for their well-being as an attempt to erode their independence.
But when your loved one’s safety is at stake, not having a conversation could have disastrous consequences. Experts agree that the best time to have such conversations is before a crisis occurs. A series of smaller conversations – over a cup of coffee or an evening cocktail – can pave the way to consensus on actions to take in the future.
Here are some tips on how to have “the talk” with your parents.
- When an opening arises, take advantage of it
It’s likely many of your parents’ friends are experiencing similar challenges. If your mother mentions a friend who is moving to a senior living community, ask how she would feel about doing that and then be ready to discuss the many advantages of doing so.
- Know what options exist in their area
Before you bring up the topic of a possible move, become familiar with the different options available in your parent’s area, costs and, if possible, what their financial situation is.
- Be empathetic to their situation
Embrace a spirit of compassion and respect. Change is hard for most people and can be particularly hard when it means acknowledging getting older and having to adjust to new realities. Show your parents that you understand their concerns and that your greatest wish for them is for their optimum well-being.
- Be willing to hear opposing points of view
While you may be primarily interested in your parents’ safety, they may be more interested in retaining their independence. Stay open and really listen to their concerns and then work with them to find a solution that meets everyone’s objectives.
- Offer to be a resource
If you’re meeting resistance, offer to help find solutions. Find some senior living communities in their area and go there with your parents to take a look. Let your parents know they’re not in this alone and you’ll be with them along the way.