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Having the Conversation

When the time comes to consider senior living for your parent or loved one, it is natural to feel apprehensive about discussing the transition. While your instinct may be to avoid talking about moving away from home until it becomes needed, it is always more productive to prepare yourself and your loved one for what may come next. Conversations of this nature are critical and have the ability to shape your loved one’s experience at a senior living community. While this stage of life can be worrisome, the following information should help make your conversations as productive as possible.

Come Prepared
Do your homework. Before you initiate the conversation about senior care, prepare yourself. Create a list of your concerns and educate yourself on senior living options. Exploring the options and learning more about successful aging can give you the self-assurance you need to begin this conversation. Educating yourself does not mean you are making decisions without the consent of your parent or aging family member. Instead, you are preparing yourself to be as helpful as possible for the conversation and decisions ahead.

Involve your siblings in the process. Get everyone on the same page before you approach your parents. However, it may be helpful to designate one sibling to be the spokesperson.

Remember, when you think about how to have your conversation, to frame it around the most important considerations for aging adults: security, independence, freedom, peace of mind, family and friends and choices.

Once you have educated yourself and feel you can confidently explain the options, the following tips can help you have a productive conversation.

Tips for a Better Conversation about Senior Care
The sooner you are able to have the conversation, the better. This provides the opportunity for your parent to ask the right questions, evaluate options and decide on a plan together. Make them a part of the decision.

As with many difficult topics, beginning the discussion is often the hardest part. Talk in person, one-on-one, and keep it casual. Remember, empathy, not sympathy. Your kind, calm demeanor will show you care, and that you are trying to understand the fears and frustrations they may feel. Open-ended questions are the best way to encourage them to talk. Ask them to share their feelings. Many aging parents are afraid to start over in a new home, or feel that they are a burden to their children. Sit back and listen to their answers.

Avoid information overload. Sharing a little basic information up front can be helpful, but overloading the conversation with your research will be overwhelming. When people feel overwhelmed, they can get defensive and the conversation could end quickly, making it hard to resume later. Take your time, and do not rush. Once you are armed with knowledge, you may feel ready to make a decision. But your parent may need more time. Allow them the time they need to find the words to express how they are feeling. Coming to an unpressured decision now will benefit moving forward.

Plan to talk again. Address one issue at a time rather than trying to resolve everything at once. It is less intimidating that way. If you start small, you are more likely to start. And your parent will be more likely to participate. As much as you might want to wrap things up in one conversation, the reality is this will likely be a series of talks. It is a process, not a one-and-done discussion.

The last thing you want is for your loved one to feel like they are being forced into a senior living community without input. Open communication is an important part of the process. 

For more suggestions on having the conversation, contact Gracewell at 712.263.3114.

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