Many adult children talk about putting a parent in assisted living with a sense of dread and guilt. They worry about Mom or Dad feeling lonely, scared, or betrayed. They wonder if they have abandoned their obligation to love and care for their parents unconditionally. The very notion of “putting” someone somewhere is at the core of this problem. Here’s why this mindset is so harmful, and why you need to change your thinking.
We Don’t ‘Put’ People Places
Age doesn’t rob someone of the right to make decisions about their own life. Even when your parent has dementia or another impairment and stubbornly refuses to move, their preferences still matter. At its heart, the problem with the notion of putting a parent in assisted living is that it treats adults like objects to be put somewhere — not people with values and needs that matter. Even when you must make the final decision, it’s important to do so in a way that shows respect for your parent’s values, their fundamental human dignity. Shift your thinking away from “putting” your loved one somewhere and toward finding the best option for the entire family.
Even when you reframe your mindset away from putting your parent somewhere, you may worry that moving them to assisted living means that you’re giving up. Most seniors say they want to age in place, and many adult children wish they had the time, energy, or resources to care for their parents full time. The truth is that this can be a recipe for disaster. No child has the ability to care for a parent full time on their own, especially if the parent has dementia or another serious condition. Even if you can share the load with other loved ones, you may suffer from caregiver burnout that can harm your relationship with your parent, your mental health, your career, and your ability to parent your own children.
Assisted living offers relief from these immense stressors, keeps your loved one safe, and offers them a chance at more relationships, deeper connections, and more joy. You’re not “putting” them there. You’re offering an alternative to loneliness, family conflict, and inadequate support.
Assisted Living as a Place of Joy
Assisted living can be life-changing. In the right community, once-struggling seniors can flourish, nurturing new friendships, discovering new hobbies, and getting all the help they deserve to remain safe and comfortable. Some of the amenities you can expect in a good assisted living community include:
- Gourmet dining that is tailored to your loved one’s tastes and nutritional needs
- Daily activities to keep your loved one’s body and mind active
- Celebrations of all of life’s events
- Special field trips
- Plenty of opportunities for socialization and new friendships
- A safe, luxurious home
This is not somewhere you “put” someone. It’s the sort of place where seniors feel happy and lucky — not abandoned or scared. Moving your loved one to assisted living offers them a chance at a better life. There’s no reason to feel guilty. The way you approach the decision, however, may affect your relationship and color how your parents feel about the move.
Working Together to Make the Decision
Though assisted living can breathe new passion into your loved one’s life, many seniors are understandably anxious about leaving home. Dementia can make it difficult for your loved one to identify their need for assisted living or another form of support. Convincing them to consider a senior living community requires a collaborative approach. Talk to them about the benefits of senior living and don’t make them feel like they’re being forced into something they hate.
As you navigate the journey, a few questions can help you make the right decision:
- What level of care am I able to provide for my loved one, and for how long?
- Are there any gaps between the care my loved one currently receives and what they need?
- What sorts of activities and daily services could improve my loved one’s quality of life?
- Would an assisted living community make it easier to spend enjoyable, obligation-free time with my loved one?
- What are my loved one’s values? What community would be most consistent with them?
To learn more about your loved one’s options, download our free guide, “The Journey to Senior Living: A Step-by-Step Guide for Families.”