Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: Assisted Living for Aging Parents

Also, Ginzler said, it's important to use "I" statements. This lets your parents understand that you're coming from an emotional point-of-view, that you care about them and have concern and worries. You could say, "Mom and dad, I'm afraid you might get hurt; I want to make sure you're safe; I want you to be healthy; I want to make sure you're living well; I want to talk to you about how to make sure you're safe."

These "I" statements express your emotional commitment and your true concern.

And frame things as if your parents are helping you. Say, "Do me a favor and consider getting someone to come in to help you." Or, "Do me a favor, and consider how it might make your life easier to live in an assisted-living community."

This can help keep the parent-child relationship in place and help your parent feel a greater sense of dignity.

Remember, first, that one conversation will never be enough. This will be an ongoing process. One of the best things you can do is to think about negotiation techniques and how to make a deal. You can say that if they don't want to move, at least, they can make a visit.

Say, "I'll show you three residences in your community, and then we won't talk about this for 30 days." Or write a family contract that says if specific things happen -- say, food is spoiling or the house is getting dirty -- then another discussion about assisted living is in order.

Another great idea is to give your parents the gift of help. Hire someone to come in once a week to clean up or get a regular grocery delivery. It's much harder to reject a gift. And if all else fails, hire an objective, third-party professional to come in and assess the situation and mediate.

Taking Action to Get Help for Your Aging Parents

Create First-Floor Living
Make House Senior-Friendly
Use Community Services
Visit Assisted-Living Residences
Let Parents Choose

To decide whether it's best for your parents to stay at home and get help or move to an assisted-living facility, start by asking them what they would like.

"Ask them what their preference is," Ginzler said. "Most people want to stay in their home."

If that's the case, you need to determine if it's possible. Look at the house itself. Does it meet the needs of your parent? Can it be easily changed to meet them if it doesn't?

Look at first-floor living; stairs can be a great hazard. Is there a way to have a full bath and a bedroom on the first floor, either by repurposing rooms or doing an easy remodeling job? Then you can make easy changes such as changing door handles to levers, making it easier to come and go.

You can do the same with the cabinets in the kitchen. Also, you need to make sure there are ample community services for them, such as house cleaning or even medical intervention. And can they get emotional support from visitors? People need that kind of attention.

If staying home isn't an option, then you need to help your parents choose an assisted-living care facility. These are not nursing homes. They are residences that support independent living and provide personal care assistance with, for example, bathing and dressing. They provide meals and social stimulation as well. Let the parent choose which residence best fits his or her needs.

CLICK HERE for more advice from the AARP on choosing an assisted-living facility.

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