13 Tips on talking to your older family member about moving into an Assisted Living Community

13 Tips on talking to your older family member about moving into an Assisted Living Community

I posed a question on a LinkedIn discussion forum. Here it is:

How do I convince my grandmother it is time to move into an AL community?
My grandmother is a very independent lady. Or was. She is really struggling. So far, my family has been unsuccessful in convincing her it would be beneficial for her to consider an AL community. We really do not want to force it on her.  Does anybody have suggestions on how to convince her all will be well if she moves? Thanks much for your feedback.

I got such a fabulous response I was inspired to write about it. If you are wondering how to have this conversation with your loved one-happy reading! Take note this topic also applies to moving your loved one into a skilled nursing center, independent living, etc.

Glean the tips that resonate with you and leave the rest for the next reader!

I’m starting with Jennifer as she had a plan of action. She wrote an excellent article titled “Discussing Tough Topics With Your Older Parent“.

Here are 7 steps to take when having the “talk” with your family member. 1

  1. Create an agenda-What are your goals for the conversation? Decide in advance what you would like the end result to be. Be realistic and understand this is a multi-step process. Consider a good location for this discussion. Does mom have a favorite restaurant?
  2. Educate yourself-Teach yourself about the aging process. Go to websites “such as National Institute on Aging (www.nia.nih.gov) and Alliance for Aging Research (www.agingresearch.org)” for current information.
  3. Set a good example-What have you done to prepare for your later years? Show your family member so he sees words in action.
  4. Be persistent-Don’t give up. Understand that this will take time. Patience is beautiful!
  5. Empathize-Remember that you will be in this same spot some day.
  6. Explain how it’s affecting you-Jennifer suggests keeping a log of how these issues affect you and your family. Refer to it before having these conversations. It will remind you of specific examples you can use when making your case.
  7. Involve others who care about your parent-What about your church pastor? Or a really good friend.  Their advice may be easier to accept than yours (since you ARE the child!).

Back to LinkedIn. The feedback I received came from experts in the senior care field.

My first response was from Priscilla who owns Assurance In-Home Care in Ashburn, VA. She was very thorough. I wrote the condensed version in this blog. Read everything here.

The secret is to start slow. Find out if she is interested in going to the county senior center a few days a week so she can be around people her own age. The transportation and daytime meals are usually free. If she attends church, make sure she gets there and attend with her.

She probably won’t leave her home to go into a permanent community or facility until there is a major health event (like stroke or a fall). She will also realize on her own she is unable to take care of herself. Nobody wants to be in a nursing home, so the idea of an independent living or assisted living community will sound a lot better…do your homework and look for the very best assisted living community in your area. She should see only the one that is the best fit for her. Introduce her to the staff at one of their group meals so she can sample the food and meet new people. Again, go slow. Show her the rooms (apartments) available, let her meet the nursing staff and administrators. The facility should be close to your home so you and other family can visit frequently.

Joanne recommends : “I find bringing them to visit and take a meal, without the “sales tour” is a good first step. That way they can see the residents, talk with them; without the fear factor in place. After the trip don’t discuss the pros and cons for a day or two. Fear of the unknown is as great to this age group as kindergarten is to a 5 year old.”

Ronald had a GREAT idea. “I have worked with many AL communities and I advocate that they create strategies to ease the transition from home to the community and to make this decision easier. This includes strategies for resident(s) and also for the family. Hosting events that allow outsiders to see and experience the community, to meet residents, and to begin to form relationships is a good start.” (Senior care organizations are you paying attention? Hosting free events brings you exposure and helps your senior neighbors get to know you and how great your community is!)

Janet chimed in: “This represents a profound change for her and that can make anyone fearful. She probably has visions of being on lock down or surrounded by people who are mentally ill. (read that last sentence twice!) What I suggest to my adult children is to have their parent or grandparent do one of two things: First, come in for lunch and look around. No obligation, no sales pitch just come have lunch and maybe stay for an activity. Second, try a respite stay. Respite stays can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months depending on the community. This will give her a chance to take a” test drive” and immerse herself into the culture of the community. Either way she can see that many people still drive, come and go as they please, still have their beloved cat or dog with them and friends and family can visit any time. I tell people to think of our community as a cruise ship that never leaves the dock!“ (great way to word it!)

Teresa advised: “First you need to find the assisted living that is best for your grandmother. Every assisted living has it’s own personality. View several and look for the personality that reflects her. Then take her out for lunch and let this lunch be at the facility you think is best. Let her check things out, point out the good things. Point out all the independent things she will still be doing but will always have assistance when needed.”

Here’s what Cheryl said. “When opening conversation with my mother about a transition to AL I spoke with her physician about my concerns. I made an appointment with the doctor so that she could discuss this option with my mother. Due to her age she believes that the doctor is always right.”  (I have to agree with that. My grandmother feels her doctor is All-Knowing!) 

Denise offered several fabulous links:

Here are some additional suggestions from experts participating in Ask & Answer on Caring.com:




If you need help in finding and evaluating assisted living communities, these resources may also be helpful to your family: http://www.caring.com/local/assisted-living-facilities

If/when you interview providers by phone, go on tours, and/or help select a community for your grandmother, please post a review or two to help other families in their search: http://www.caring.com/review_submissions/new

This year, Caring.com launched a new Caring Stars program recognizing assisted living communities based on 5-star consumer reviews for service excellence: http://www.caring.com/about/news-room/caring-stars-assisted-living.html. So, by posting your feedback on Caring.com, you not only help many families in their search, but also give direct insights to providers about the preferences of families and residents in senior care.

Amy Bair is a Process Improvement Specialist. Her specialty is partnering with senior care communities to improve resident service, increase staff retention and reduce expenses. Learn more about the services she offers and download her FREE report “6 Ways Senior Care Centers Can Increase Revenue and Reduce Expenses” at www.bpenow.com.

1. Discussing Tough Topics With Your Older Parent

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