Navigating Difficult Discussions
Are you worried about your mom or dad—or another loved one who is living alone? Let’s say you are, and want to ask if he or she would consider moving to a care community. Chances are you’ll encounter some resistance. How can you make it easier to discuss transitions with those you love?
Involve Your Loved One
Experts agree that the first step to any conversation involving a transition is to ask your loved one what they want—and then to listen carefully. It is important that any decisions about change are driven by the people who will be most affected by them. Older adults who reject the idea of moving to a care community or assisted living housing often say they are worried about high costs, leaving their homes, losing space or giving up their belongings and giving up their independence as well. Your best chance of helping loved ones with their concerns is by listening to what they want.
Be Patient and Understanding
You should also keep in mind that nothing will be decided or solved in one conversation. Think of your conversations with loved ones as a marathon, not a sprint; a journey rather than a quick-fix destination. You also don’t want to sound like you are telling your loved ones what to do. Instead, ask questions such as, “What do you want that would make you happy? Is there something you always wanted to accomplish but never had time for?” You may discover that a parent has spent years cooking meals for your family and wanted to create art instead. You may find a parent wants to travel, in which case maintaining a home would be a hindrance to that.
Look to the Future
As you talk through different scenarios, it’s okay to ask loved ones about what needs to happen to make their lives easier; or what the plan is if they fall or become injured or ill. Each answer will inform what comes next.
Ask About Their Peers
Another way to create a smooth transition is to help your loved ones experience a sense of control, which helps them maintain a stronger sense of self in the midst of change. Therefore, you might ask if he or she has spoken with friends who moved to an assisted living community. Peers are much more likely to have influence with each other than a loved one’s adult children. If your parents’ friends are already living in an independent or assisted living community, it may be possible to get them together with your mom and dad. They may even decide to take a tour if a friend recommends it.
Focus on the Positive
The main thing to remember during a transitional period in a loved one’s life is that he or she needs to move toward something positive, rather than leaving everyone and everything behind. Focusing on positive reasons to move opens the door to more thoughtful decisions. That’s a goal that’s worth waiting for.