Many adult children of aging parents face this trial by fire.
Mom or dad starts missing appointments. Lets housekeeping or personal hygiene slip. The house is scattered with unopened pill organizers—they may be skipping their meds. They may forget where they are or who they are talking to—signs of approaching dementia.
It could be obvious to you—the parents who cared for you now need care themselves, professional care by a qualified caregiver.
You grit your teeth and broach the subject…and your parent is less than thrilled. This is their home, they have lived here for decades! All their favorite things are here! No way are they leaving, and they certainly aren’t allowing in some stranger into their house who will probably rob them blind. Don’t forget who is the parent here and who is the child!
If you have had, or fear having, this kind of confrontation about your elderly parents moving out of their house and transitioning into assisted living, memory care, or nursing care, you are not alone. As frustrating as this time can be, your parents need your love and honor just as much as you need it from them.
Here are True Legacy Homes’ eight suggestions of what to do if your elderly parent refuses assisted living.
- Don’t Give Up On Them
- Ask Questions About the Future
- Don’t Make Ultimatums, Propose Options
- Seek Expert Advice
- Set Priorities
- Keep A Record
- Take It Slow
- Accept your Own Limitations
1. Don’t Give Up On Them
Your mom or dad is still in there. Time changes everyone, but this is still the person who nursed you, changed your diapers, cooked for you, dropped you off at school, played catch with you in the yard, took you on family vacations.
You still have those fond memories, and so do they. Part of elderly parents moving is understanding that even fond memories belong in the past. The only way to move is forward, accepting what life presents in the here and now.
With that in mind, if things get heated, resist the temptation to scream “Fine! Enjoy your broken hip,” slam the door, and never come back. Keep coming back. Aging is scary. Your parents never gave up on you. Don’t give up on them now when they need you, more than they may realize.
It helps if those ugly showdowns never materialize. It can happen if you approach the topic with patience and compassion…which is what the next seven steps are all about.
2. Ask Questions About the Future
Every solution starts with the right questions. Salesmen ask buyers questions to tease out objections they can overcome, and “pain points” that they can address.
You want to sell Mom or Dad on the necessity of assisted living, so start by asking questions. For example:
- “Where do you want to live when you start to become less mobile?” Stubborn parents may retort “I’ll live right here in my home until I drop dead!” Even if this answer scares you, let it go. This is a process.
- “Would you consider hiring a housekeeper to take some of the burdens off you?” Ease into the conversation of inviting new people into their business, along with the possibility that they cannot do as much as they used to be able to.
- “Do you have a system in place in case you become injured or sick and no one is within earshot to help?” Show that you care. Get them thinking about worst-case scenarios. Remember Inception? The strongest ideas are the ones people think they came up with on their own. If your parents come to their own conclusion that it is time for a change, it will save you a lot of heartache.
Don’t just ask the questions once—keep asking them. You may get the same answer over and over again. You may hear “I told you already! Now stop asking!” Keep asking. Establish a culture and an expectation: “In this family that we talk about the future realistically, even when it is hard. We don’t run from problems—we face them.”
Over time, the answers may change. You may discover why your parents are being stubborn, the fears and “pain points” that you can assuage to make the decision easier.
3. Don’t Make Ultimatums, Propose Options
The easiest way to blow up the conversation about elderly parents moving is to try to “put your foot down,” like Dad might have done when you were little. “Mom, Dad, you’re moving into assisted living and that’s final!”
Good luck. Nobody likes an ultimatum. The natural psychological response is to resist it. You felt that way when you were a teenager, and it certainly holds true for parents who find themselves being scolded by their own offspring. Don’t be that guy.
Instead, propose options:
- Suggest attending meetups with peers at senior living communities.
- Propose an assessment from a nurse who might nudge them in the right direction.
- Encourage them in their hobbies and interests that can continue when they have made the transition.
4. Seek Expert Advice
Know what’s better than broaching the topic of assisted living to your parents? Someone else broaching the topic of assisted living to your parents. Especially someone who knows what he or she is talking about.
Encourage Mom and Dad to regularly meet with:
- Social Workers
- Clergy Members
These experts have authority your parents may respect which they can never afford you because you are still “their baby.” If the advice to seek assisted living comes from them, it will carry more weight—especially if you haven’t been hounding them on the topic and they suspect collusion.
5. Set Priorities
Don’t be so certain that you know the solutions to your parents’ problems. They are the ones who live with them. Instead, engage with your parents and discuss what might be more important:
- Someone to help with the housework.
- Some way to remember medications.
- Help with activities of daily living like bathing or dressing.
- Reliable transport to doctors’ appointments.
- Social and service activities that make them feel active and worthwhile.
6. Keep A Record
Take notes of every interaction you have with your elderly parents. This is not just to help you understand their needs better. There could sadly come a time when your parents are ruled incompetent, and the decision to accept assisted living may be made for them, by you or some other custodian.
Your written record could be crucial in achieving a court ruling of incompetence. It may sting, but it may also be the best thing for them, especially if they suffer from dementia.
7. Take It Slow
Moving a parent into assisted living can feel like an emergency. After all, they could have a fall or a stroke at any minute.
…but chances are, they won’t. If they dig in, the odds certainly get worse. Can you accept that by pushing for assisted living tomorrow, you could wind up delaying them by a year?
Take all the time that is needed for your parents to acclimate to the suggestion. Even if they agree to assisted living, the transition will take time. Something could happen in that interim, and all your fretting was for nothing. Skip the step where you fret, and approach your parents’ condition calmly and objectively.
8. Accept your Own Limitations
Remember when your parents were the ones who knew best? They probably do. How ironic that the roles have been reversed.
Keep in mind—they were never perfect, and neither are you. If your parents are still legally competent, they have the right to make their own decisions. All you can do is propose solutions and love them as best you can. No one wants to see their parents suffer, but ultimately it is their life. Aging is a transition we must all make in our own way.
The nightmare scenario is that your parents make a choice you don’t agree with and end up seriously injured or worse. The most important thing for you to remember is that it is not your fault. They are responsible, not you. A child taking his first steps learns his limitations the hard way. For some of us, that is the only way we learn.
Parents make decisions for their own reasons—not as an affront to you. If you don’t take their refusal personally, it will be easier to let go of anger and just love them. If you are right that it is time for assisted living, be patient and persistent. They will come around. If not, be mindful that no one lives forever.
You are asking them to let go. Set a good example, just like they did for you, and practice letting go yourself.
Reach out to True Legacy Homes for more suggestions to make the transition to assisted living as smooth as possible.