Every day, millions of U.S. citizens act as caregivers for a loved one. Across the country, more than 15 million family members are looking after people that are living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, for example. These sons and daughters are often at risk of becoming ill themselves from bearing the cumulative weight of responsibility for their parent or grandparent. For those seniors who find it difficult to do specific daily tasks due to illness or other impairments as a result of aging, assisted living is a practical and propitious solution for them and their families.
How Do You Know Your Loved One Needs Assisted Living?
Moving a parent or grandparent into an assisted living community is not an easy decision to make. It may also be challenging to determine if it is time to consider it and have an open and honest dialogue about alternative residency.
Some people have found that the “70-40 Rule” is a valid way to determine if a conversation should get started and if the current situation of your aging loved one should get assessed when your parent is 70 years old or older, and you are 40 or above.
Other indications could be telltale signs of the need for starting a conversation with not just your elderly family member, but eventually, the rest of the family. A Californian clinician suggests looking for the following:
- Safety in the home becomes compromised
- Amount of stress experienced by the caregiver is mammoth
- Violent, verbal, sexual, or physical aggression arises
- Current level of care is inadequate for progressive conditions
Quite possibly one of the worse things that could occur is a catastrophe to befall your loved one, such as illness or a fall, and no plans have gotten discussed regarding what would happen next. There should be a contingency course of care, which can only get attained with a conversation. This conversation will help you plan together and make the right assisted living choice.
An organized meeting with your senior parent may not prevent a crisis, but it can restore stability in the wake of the unfortunate. Discussing plans for transition into assisted living can also ameliorate the development of resentment for having to care for your parent or grandparent – among other possibilities related to aging and the quality of life for your loved one.
Initiating the Conversation Should be Done With Honor and Respect
Your aging parent may be more receptive and involved in planning for how he or she intends to live out the remainder of life if you do the following:
Approach the subject of assisted living as an honor for the care your parent has provided you over the years.
- Respect for your loved one’s voice in how to be cared for during the aging process.
- By talking with your loved one in this way, the conversation about the transitioning into an assisted living community may be more productive and mitigate stress.
Many families do not talk about care until something wrong happens. It is not too soon until it is too late. By taking the time to discuss with your senior relative about how they wish to receive care in the future, you learn more about your aging parent’s fears or concerns and can adequately plan together.
Of course, you do not want to overwhelm your relative. On the contrary, you want your loved one to feel the full depth of love with which you are opening the discussion. Make sure your elderly loved one understands that the purpose of considering assisted living – either at present or in the future – is to ensure your parent’s well-being and emotional stability for all parties involved.
Why Is Discussing or Considering Assisted Living Important?
A population of elderly individuals who are living longer inundates the U.S. senior demographic. As wonderfully sweet as continued existence can be for many people, there is the bitterness of the reality which shows that with longer life comes the likelihood of having to succumb to years stricken with chronic illness, impairments, and other challenges.
More Than One Conversation Is Essential
There should be an ongoing dialogue about your loved one’s future. You should want to make sure you are not intimidating or forceful with your parent or grandparent. Let your loved one give you answers freely. What you want is open communication, so that your aging parent can provide you with information regarding his or her feelings, needs, and desires for how he or she wishes to get cared for should there be a need for more managed care in the future.
Equivocally Assess Your Needs as Well as That of Your Loved One
If you have been a caregiver and you are experiencing elevated levels of stress and resentment or feeling burdened with the responsibility to care for your loved one, do not use these conversations as an opportunity to vent.
Studies show that caregivers sometimes need therapy, support groups, or close friends and peers or relatives. It is just as important that you, as a caregiver, have an outlet – a person or group of people with whom you can talk to regarding any strong emotions or stress you experience as a result of carrying the weight of home care for your elderly grandparent or parent.
Just remember that when talking with your loved one, you want to keep the conversation light and compassionate – from a genuine place of love. You do not want to express feelings of being overwhelmed with responsibility in a negative way. Let mom, dad, grandpa, or grandma know that you want to be sure they are receiving the best of care – not implicate any negative feelings that you can no longer care for them.
Remember that these conversations must be organic and flow in a series of questions – not in one sitting to expect all the answers or realize all the needs. You want to use your conversations about assisted living as a way to develop a rooted partnership between you and your loved one. You both will have a mutual interest in the decisions that get made.
Do Not Plan In Panic
If possible, try to start conversations when your loved one is in good health. You want to avoid having talks under duress or in crisis if you can. By planning during a period of favorable stability and managed good health, whether moderate or fair, you and your parent or grandparent will be able to see all the different ways that an assisted living residence or facility can be beneficial and necessary.
Be prepared for the talks before sitting down with your loved one. You want to come to the table with discussion points, so that there is a clear outline of what needs you feel should get addressed or questions to get targeted – always allowing a free flow of dialogue from your parent – with you actively listening. When your loved one is in a right state of mind and positive state of health, he or she will be better able to present thoughts and feelings regarding assisted care.
Other Considerations for the Conversations
- Try to schedule your conversations with an adequate allotment of time to talk.
- Also, make sure you choose an appropriate setting that would make your parent or grandparent feel comfortable and relaxed. You may consider having the dialogue at a nice restaurant or any other setting that would keep the atmosphere warm and receptive. The environment should be proper for listening and sharing.
- If there is a relative or other sibling that you feel may add to the air of comfort for your parent, perhaps you can invite them to sit in on the conversations as well.
Discussing Assisted Living Could Require Outside Input
Considering assisted-living is a sensitive subject. You want to approach the conversations delicately, and you may want to get input from other family members who may be involved with decisions and plans. A third-party unrelated to the family could also have involvement in the planning. Perhaps a therapist, counselor, or doctor may be an appropriate guest to have also attending the sit-down. A professional may be able to help answer any questions or help guide the conversation that you have with your loved one.
As you assess and evaluate needs, write out discussion points, pick a suitable time and place to talk, and invite any supportive people to participate in a series of conversations about assisted living with your loved one, remember the best time to talk is before crisis hits.
If you feel that your loved one would benefit from living in an assisted living facility or residence, then it is best to get started with a conversation “too soon than too late.” Make sure your loved one feels comfortable having the dialogue. Also, let your parent or grandparent know that you are presenting assisted living as an option for their care because you love and want nothing but good years for them as they continue aging.