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Tips for Having the Senior Living Conversation With Your Parents

How do you go about having the senior living conversation with your parents? While every family is unique, there are ways to ease into the discussion so that both you and your parents can communicate effectively and arrive at the right decision.

The senior living conversation: start early

If possible, begin bringing up the subject of how your parents are doing on a regular basis. For example, asking them if they could use more help around the house, do they feel safe driving at night, or do they wish they could enjoy a good meal without cooking or doing dishes. By opening up the dialogue you give your parent an opportunity to begin considering a different lifestyle.

You may find AARP’s Care to Talk?™ Conversation Cards to be a helpful starting point. These customized conversation cards can help you start meaningful discussions about health care, finances, future plans and more.

The key is to ease into the senior living conversation rather than arrange a surprise family meeting. This way, your parents won’t feel as though they’ve been backed into a corner.

Tips for a productive senior living conversation

Listen actively.
If there are some silences, don’t jump in to fill them. You want to let your parent know you are open to any thoughts, fears or worries they might have. It’s quite possible they will say something you hadn’t thought of, so be sure not to dominate the senior living conversation.

Let them be comfortable.
Maybe the first time you bring up the subject, it’s while you are both clearing the table after a fun family occasion. Or, perhaps you’re sitting in a lovely park. Gauge if your parent is relaxed and seems open to talking about what comes next.

Ask questions that let them express their thoughts.
For example, have they given any thought to their future? Do they feel safe living on their own? Is it becoming too difficult to care for the house? Are there things they absolutely do not want, as well as something they feel would be essential for their happiness?

Be honest, but compassionate.
If you are worrying about their health or safety, let them know. It might make it easier for your parents to admit to some fears they may have. Tell them that while you don’t mind lending them an occasional hand, you’re concerned about what might happen if you couldn’t be there promptly. If you live in another state and are visiting or having a video chat, let them know you think about them all the time and just want to know they are safe and comfortable.

Bring up the benefits of senior living.
If you have done some research on the advantages of senior living, you’ll feel more confident discussing your parent’s options as part of the senior living conversation. Reassure them they won’t be giving up their independence as they might fear. Instead, they will actually have more freedom because they won’t be worrying about the house, transportation or meal preparation.

Remind them that instead of sitting alone and watching television all day, they’ll be able to connect with more friends and fill their days with as much activity as they choose. Mention opportunities to exercise, go on outings with others, enjoy conversation at mealtimes and celebrate holidays without all the work.

And if they have concerns over changes in their health, let them know that they can choose a senior living community with all levels of care, so that their needs can be met without having to move again—and how much peace of mind that would also give you and your siblings.

Involving the whole family in the senior living conversation

Each family is different. You might be the primary caregiver for your parents, or you might share responsibilities with siblings who live nearby. You also could have siblings that live out of town and aren’t as aware that Mom and Dad could use more support.

Before addressing the senior living conversation with your parents, address the subject with family members to gauge their awareness as well as their willingness to be involved. Then when it’s time to include everyone in the discussion, you will find it easier to create a plan that respects your parents’ wishes and reassure your family that the right choice has been made.

Speaking with your parents about how they want to live their retirement years may feel uncomfortable at first, but having the conversation early provides opportunities for further conversations. As more conversations are had, addressing the topic becomes more comfortable and issues/concerns are more deeply discussed. And remind them, you love them and have their best interests at heart.

Download and refer to our Senior Living Options Guide, which provides additional tips and information about having a successful senior living conversation with your parent.