Are you part of one of those families in which all of the siblings had to draw straws to determine who gets to take away the car keys from Dad when the time came?
Although this method and storyline often lightens the mood, there is no hiding how scary of an endeavor it is to be solely responsible for taking things away from your aging parents.
Children, grandchildren, and other family members/caregivers of the elderly are frequently, at some point, placed in a position in which they need to bring up that life-changing conversation with their loved ones:
discussing the possibility of relocating to an alternative place of residence including assisted living facilities (residential care centers), memory care centers, or other community-based options outside of their private residence.
Depending on the person and their history, this conversation could be a long time coming and not at all surprising. For others, terrifying circumstances at home may spark an immediate discussion:
an increase in falls or injuries at home, rapid health deterioration, or an unexpected change in caregiver roles (death, illness, etc.).
To merely suggest a transition to residential care outside of the home for some elderly adults is to rip away all feelings and modes for independence.
Therefore, this conversation should be taken with great care if family members/caregivers expect to come out with positive results.
Consider the following tips that could be used in initiating the discussion and to keep the dialogue from shutting down:
Prepare for a role switch: Children of elderly parents have a built-up expectation about interacting with each other, with typically children taking the submissive role even as adults. Now, it’s time for children to take a leadership (but not dominating) role. Be proactive and confident when discussing alternative living options.
Formalize the conversation: Talking about a potential move should be considered a sit-down conversation. Physically sit down with the elderly individual, even if this means scheduling a time to meet in advance. Select a quiet, comfortable room where there are limited distractions.
Have your care center resources at the ready: Have prospective centers and care options in front of you, whether the information is all on pamphlets or on your laptop. Have complete evidence of your research, but avoid making this an overwhelming part of the discussion because elderly adults who are talking about residential care for the first time will need time to process.
Back up your stance with recorded incidences: If you feel like the conversation is going a certain direction, appropriately bring up recent and past safety concerns without sugar-coating the facts. Examples include falls in the home, getting stuck in the bathroom, inability to access food or medication without others, hospital stays that resulted from problems at home, etc.
Re-emphasize your love for the individual: Make sure your tone in the conversation does not come across as demeaning or cold. Admitting that you need help is very defeating for some elderly adults. Consistently reassure them, verbalizing how much you care for them.
These tips are not fool-proof and will not work for every, unique situation. For some elderly adults, coming to terms with a residential change will take several scares and hospital stays.
We can only make our best efforts, which includes having the courage to bring up the conversation not once, but numerous times.