Talking to Your Elderly Parents About Assisted Living

Assisted LivingFamilies & Caregivers

Home represents a lot of things: the American dream, a location of wonderful memories, a place to grow old. According to AARP, nearly 90% of seniors want to stay in their home for as long as possible, and 80% believe their current residence is where they’ll always live.

In contrast, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found 70% of seniors 65 and over will need some form of long-term care in their lifetimes for an average of three years. That’s why talking to your parents about assisted living before they need it is so important.

Talking About Assisted Living

So how do you have this conversation? Most people don’t like talking about subjects that make them, or someone they care about, uncomfortable … even if it’s absolutely necessary and an important part of planning for the future. If you’re thinking about talking to your parents about assisted living, here are 11 suggestions that might help.

1. Early and often

Broaching this subject early while your parents are still able to live safely at home or in a retirement community gives you the opportunity to discuss the future in a hypothetical way. If you encounter resistance, you can continue the conversation at a later date or after they’ve had time to think about it.

2. Share

When starting the conversation about senior living options, consider beginning with your own long-term care wishes, or share an article or story about someone faced with a senior care decision. If it doesn’t directly deal with your loved ones, they may feel more at ease and even offer an opinion about what they think should be done.

3. Follow

When talking with your parents about assisted living, follow your loved one’s lead and let them guide the conversation.

4. Be accepting

Be prepared to accept your loved ones’ choices and support them in the decisions they make. If circumstances change, you can always come back to the topic.

5. Empathize

Your loved ones have spent their lives managing their own activities of daily living. Even if they’re tired of cooking and cleaning or recognize they need help eating and getting dressed, they may see accepting support as giving up their independence and/or control of their lives. Being able to see their side of the situation will help you relate to what they need and give you insight into how to reassure them.

6. Invite

Everyone wants to be able to choose where they live and the kind of care they receive. Engaging with your loved one and listening closely to their concerns can help them feel like they’re part of the conversation. If your loved ones are healthy enough to tour senior living communities or visit friends and relatives who have already made the move, bring them along. Getting a feel for the lifestyle and being able to talk to current residents will help a lot.

7. Be prepared

This is a big conversation that’s sure to raise a lot of questions. It will help if you come prepared with some information in advance.

  • Options — There are many different choices for seniors in need of varying degrees of care, including nursing homes and assisted living to senior living and in-home care. Each option offers different levels of services and amenities. It’s important to know the differences between each of them.
  • Cost — According to Genworth’s 2020 Cost of Care survey, the national median cost of assisted living is $4,300 for a private one-bedroom unit. The average cost of having an in-home health aide averaging 44 hours/week is $4,576.
  • Your role — It’s important for your loved one to know you’ll continue to be involved in their life and, in fact, a move to a community allows you to return to the relationship you had before you became their caretaker.
  • Finances — Do your parents have long-term care insurance? Are either of them a veteran? If so, they could be eligible for veterans benefits to help pay for long-term care. Knowing how care could be paid for is an important part of the equation.

8. Know where

People move for career and lifestyle opportunities. As a result, families are more geographically dispersed than ever. Be sure to talk about what part of the country your loved ones want to live in.

9. What if?

If both parents are still alive and together, ask them what they would want for the other person if the worst were to happen. Hopefully, they would want each other to be safe, well cared for, and financially stable. Ask them how you can help ensure these things.

10. Disease progression

If a loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic medical condition, such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia or heart failure, learn about how it will progress. This could impact your loved one’s ability to stay at home and/or make informed decisions about when and where to move.

11. Get help

Caregiving is not “one size fits all,” and different family members may have different thoughts on the level of care needed. If you come to a point where no one is agreeing and therefore no decisions are being made, family and elder mediation services can help you and your family overcome your differences and figure out a more workable solution.

Finding the Right Option Matters

If you’re just starting to talk to your parents about assisted living or are just beginning to research assisted living communities, the sooner you get started, the easier it will be. Our Find a Community tool can provide a list of local options for you to consider.

Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.