There are some topics we would rather never have to discuss with our loved ones. We shrivel at the prospect of telling our kids about death and the birds and the bees. Similarly, speaking with our parents about senior housing ranks rather low on our list of ways we’d like to spend an hour or so.
The Risks of Living Alone
The risk to your mother or father’s well-being only grows greater with every passing day. Nearly 8,000 adults aged 65 and older die in traffic accidents every year. A quarter million go to the emergency room following traffic accidents in the same amount of time. Three million older adults go to the emergency room for falls annually. Consequently, one in five of those patients suffer from a serious injury, such as a broken bone or traumatic brain injury.
Social isolation alone can be devastating to older adults. It’s linked to a 32% increased risk of stroke, 50% increased risk of dementia, and 57% increased risk of requiring emergency medical care. In short, ensuring that your parents receive the support they will need as they grow older is essential to both their health and their happiness.
Signs Your Parent May Need Assistance
You may have noticed signs that your parent is losing their ability to live independently. Forgetfulness and failure to keep important plans (either of which may precede the onset of Alzheimer’s) may indicate that an older adult’s health and safety are at risk, as can depression, a recent fall or inexplicable bruises, sudden weight loss, or mobility difficulties. If you have noticed these signals, then now is the time to finally have “the talk” about senior housing.
How to Talk to Your Parent About Senior Housing
Simply raising the subject of senior housing around your parent is likely to ruffle their feathers. Parents grow increasingly stubborn as they age, this has actually been scientifically verified. In addition to that, Americans in particular have historically valued their independence and self-determination. Because of this, recommending that your parent voluntarily forfeit some of their freedom in a tone which can be interpreted pushy is likely to end the conversation as quickly as it starts.
This is why it is key to avoid any kinds of conversational techniques which may seem manipulative – even though your intentions are totally pure. Do not suggest to your parent that they wouldn’t want to be a burden in the event of their declining health. Don’t use their friends as examples of what could happen to them if they don’t seek senior housing. We do not recommend you insist that they can’t go on living alone forever. They very well might see that as a challenge to try.
Stress that you don’t want to take their house or their money, or “get rid of them” as they so often choose to interpret this conversation. Above all else, avoid the phrase “for your own good.” Your parent likely attributes the achievement of living to advanced age to already knowing what is good for them!
Instead, be upfront with your parent. Share your genuine concern about their health with them. Explain that you would like to spend as much time with them on this earth as you are able. Explain that you worry an accident or medical episode, should it occur without someone nearby to help, might cut that time short.
Acknowledge that your parent may feel as though senior housing would limit their freedom, but help them understand that the availability of immediate assistance may become the deciding factor as to whether they will remain able to speak and walk for another several years. This is not assurance which you can guarantee your parent even if they live with you, as you regularly have to leave your house.
Point out the advantages of senior housing which your parent is likely to value most. If you sense that your parent misses having a social life, suggest that they’ll find their peers in senior housing. If they haven’t been eating well lately, underscore the benefits of having a professional kitchen at their beck and call. But it’s important to remember to be sensitive. Don’t suggest to your parent that they couldn’t enjoy these benefits if they remained on their own, as it may make them feel inadequate or infantilized.
Never frame the conversation as though the choice to look into senior housing isn’t your parent’s alone. Emphasize to your parent that it is their decision to make. However old you may have grown yourself, your parent is not likely to accept that you hold any power over them. They have far too many memories of you doing embarrassing things as a child to ever see you as an authority figure.
Finally, ask your parent if they would like to see what senior housing looks like for themselves. They may envision it as something akin to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, but a tour of a retirement community such as Morgan Village Lane in Tea, South Dakota will show them this preconception couldn’t be further from the truth!
If you would like to schedule that tour – or ask for any more advice as to how you could best go about discussing such a delicate topic – then we welcome you to reach out to us today!