Starting the “moving” conversation with an aging parent is never easy. The idea of leaving a home after spending decades there brings a great deal of uncertainty and unpredictable reactions.
First and foremost, perhaps the most important of our caregiver tips is to not go it alone. Family members, elder care planning experts, and resources such as our "How to Talk to Your Parent About Senior Living" guide will provide the support and tools you need to start the “moving” conversation.
Rally a Family Caregiver Support Team Before the Conversation
Families don’t always agree on what’s best for aging parents or when it’s time to make a transition to senior living. Family members who don’t visit a parent at home on a regular basis might not fully understand their parent’s changing needs or limitations. At the same time, other family members might have safety or health concerns of which you may not have been aware.
Discussing an aging parent's next steps with a family caregiver support team will help ensure that everyone is on the same page, and it will improve the odds that your parent agrees. Also, giving everyone an opportunity to voice their concerns, objections, and questions before having the conversation with a parent will prevent any conflict that can make a difficult conversation even more difficult. Here are a few tips for talking with family members:
- Hear them out: Everyone should have an opportunity to openly discuss their views and questions. The goal isn’t to prove who’s right or wrong — it’s to hear everyone’s opinions.
- Don’t make it personal: Conversations should focus on what’s best for your parent; leave family dynamics, sibling relationships, and caregiving roles out of the conversation. The Family Caregiver Alliance recommends always putting your loved one at the center of the decision, ensuring they are part of the decision at every turn.
- Find consensus: Work toward common ground when it comes to an aging parent’s care needs and challenges that would need to be overcome for them to remain at home.
Although it’s best to find consensus among family members before talking to Mom or Dad, your parent might feel blindsided if approached by the entire family at the same time. Appoint one or two family members to discuss, in a casual, controlled environment, the family’s views on care needs to the aging parent.
Do Your Homework Before Talking to Aging Parents About Moving
Aging parents naturally have many questions about moving out of a longtime home. In fact, questions about the cost of senior living, different senior living options, downsizing, and selling a home can be so overwhelming that aging parents are forever “putting them off.”
Anticipating what questions your parents might have and doing your homework ahead of time so that you’ll be providing as many answers as possible can help eliminate the uncertainty that makes seniors reluctant to move. Here are a few common questions:
- Price: Scheduling an appointment with an elder care resource planning professional will help you gauge senior living costs, any government benefits that might be available, and alternate funding sources such as long-term care insurance or life insurance settlements. Putting together a rough financing plan ahead of time will help answer your parent’s questions about cost.
- Visits: Researching senior living options in your area, contacting staff to determine services and eligibility, and gathering resources will help your parent envision what life would look like in senior living and remove uncertainty from the conversation.
- Realtor: Contacting a Realtor about local housing markets, any updates or issues that should be addressed before listing a home, and a time frame for taking a parent’s home to market will help ensure that your parent gets top dollar and feels more “ready” to move.
When your parents ask the inevitable questions about moving, stay patient, answer whatever you can offhand, and tell them you’ll help get answers to questions you’re not able to answer right away. Remember that questions are good: Answering them helps break down any uncertainty and hesitation that Mom or Dad might be feeling about the move.
Caregiver Tips to Keep It Positive
It’s common for family chats about senior living to become angry, frustrating, or divisive. Make a conscious decision to stop all conversation before it devolves into something that is not productive. Instead, keep the conversation open and positive with a few of these tips:
- Be ready to have the conversation over and over again over the course of weeks or months.
- Approach it with a fresh attitude and perspective every time you begin it again.
- Keep an open mind for your loved one’s point of view as well as for the points of view of your siblings or other advisors.
- Invite your loved one’s physician to make honest recommendations and to be involved in the ongoing discussion.
- Consider adding respite care as part of your loved one’s routine; this offers you a break from caregiving duties so that you both can approach the subject with a refreshed view.
- Focus on the health benefits of senior living, including easy access to assistance, support, and new friends.
Timing and Starting the ‘Moving’ Conversation with an Aging Parent
It’s never too early to start a conversation with loved ones about how to meet their current and future care needs. Ideally, you will want to start the conversation early on, when your parent is in good health. And expect the conversation to be ongoing; you’re unlikely to solidify your parent’s plans for the future in one or two sittings.
Again, going into the conversation with one or two family members will avoid overwhelming your parent. And simply asking an open-ended question such as, “What are your plans and goals for the future?” might be a good way to kick things off. When the conversation starts, here are a few points to consider:
- Listen, then talk: Listening to your parent’s thoughts and concerns will help you understand and address any hesitation about moving; explaining that you want to help keep your parents healthy, active, and independent for as long as possible will signal that you’re on the same team.
- Keep it going: Focus on opening an ongoing dialogue, not figuring everything out in one conversation. Jot down questions your parents have, find answers, and make plans to follow up with next steps.
- Get them involved: Sometimes seeing is believing, and getting your parents to go with you on a visit to a senior living community will help them understand the benefits and break down any barriers.
It’s important to relay your family's concerns and wishes to your parents — but it’s important not to push so hard that it shuts down lines of communication about future care needs. Early on, make continuing the conversation your goal. As you answer their questions and make them more comfortable with the idea of moving, bring them into the fold by visiting some senior living communities in their area.
Wrapping It Up: Tips for Aging Parents ‘Moving’ Conversation
Conversations about aging parents moving can be difficult. Don’t go it alone. Assemble a family caregiver support team to ensure that everyone is on the same page and has common goals. Research senior living options, prices and financing options, and real estate markets ahead of time so that you can take uncertainty out of the situation by answering any questions that your parent might have. And focus on talking to your parent early and often about future care needs so that a plan is in place before a move is required by a medical event or accident. Finally, downloading the “How to Talk to Your Parent About Senior Living” guide will provide more tools for having successful conversations with aging parents about moving.