Moving a parent to an assisted living facility can be a stressful transition for both parties. Sometimes parents can be very resistant to any kind of transition to another type of living or care arrangement. Sometimes they even refuse to consider an assisted living facility.
To help loved ones dealing with this kind of resistance, Amanda Tenpenny, Executive Director of Lake Gibson Village offers some tips and vice. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: Is there a time when family members should begin discussing assisted living facilities as a viable option for care?
Amanda: I believe that when family members observe that their elderly relatives are starting to slow down, it is best to discuss what options for the care they might need in the future, whether it be home care, independent living, senior housing, assisted living or a nursing home. It is important to have an honest discussion. Make sure the relative understands the plusses of all the available options. Often people hear things and retain incorrect information. This is far better than having a discussion after or during a crisis. When the actual time for a decision arrives, some of the sting of the idea will be less. An extreme example that I can share is two daughters brought their dad in to meet with us, and he seemed particularly sad. I learned this occurred a week after his wife died. This was not the best time to have the discussion! His transition was difficult and painful, though he did eventually settle in.
Q: What is the best way to bring up a possible assisted living facility transition?
Amanda: I believe it’s best, to be honest, and open from the earliest of conversations. It is sometimes helpful to point out to the parent that this is also for the child’s benefit, not just for the older person. For example, saying something like, “Dad, I am genuinely concerned about how you are managing. It worries me to see you like this.” Very often older people do not want to be a burden on their families, and in the process, they may even hide things from them. If the family member can openly and caringly stress their concerns, this often makes all the difference.
Q: What can you do if your parent is resistant or completely opposed to an assisted living facility?
Amanda: Most older people are not jumping for joy to move into assisted living. The need for it is usually a result of a loss, such as the loss of a spouse, financial or physical difficulty in maintaining the home, or even health concerns. Therefore, one must be sensitive to their resistance, and rather than fighting it by saying you must do this, take the time to hear what they are saying. You may have to back off for a short while, and then gently bring it up again at another time. A trusted physician or clergy member may also help join in the conversation about their changing needs and the benefits of relocating.
I remember one daughter who had gotten into the routine of flying down to her mother in Florida at least once a month. When the mother wound up in the ER, she finally told her mother that she was worried and wanted to be able to respond quickly to these emergencies, but she shared that the frequency of these trips was affecting her work and her marriage. Hearing this, her mother finally agreed to move back to New York into an assisted living facility, which was a short drive away from her daughter’s home. As a result, the situation became less stressful for the daughter and the mom would be able to see her daughter and family more often.
It is also important for the parent to hear that their adult child is not looking to run their life and that they are seeking to inform the parent about all available choices. This may include saying to them, “Would you come on a tour of some assisted living facilities, so you are familiar with the options out there? It would make me feel better.”
Q: Do you find that some strategies work better than others when explaining an assisted living facility as a care option for an aging parent?
Amanda: I have often found that emphasizing that living in an assisted living facility can enhance their independence and can always enable them to have their needs met without having paid caregivers in their home. This is a particularly good argument for older people who want their privacy and hate having caregivers around. If the older person was at one time more social (and now isn’t because of friends/loved ones’ deaths), I might emphasize that this is a way to not be alone and to have people around to share activities and meals with once again.
If they were a homeowner, I might emphasize that this would be a great way to not have to deal with the stress of maintaining the home, including managing shoveling snow and other repairs.
Lastly, I might also explain that an assisted living facility could provide for a multitude of needs, including doctors on-site, physical therapy on-site, activities, meals, housekeeping services, and socialization.
Q: What is the one thing that many people forget to think about when dealing with a parent who is refusing an assisted living facility?
Amanda: I believe it is that people are afraid of change, and because they currently living in the same location that they raised their family in, there may be a strong emotional component to change. In addition, they may be afraid that they will not be able to manage the physical aspect of the move. They may need reassurance that helps with the move will be provided, either by the family or by a senior move manager, and that the family will continue to be involved, even more involved.
“At Lake Gibson Village, our top priority is to give older adults the support they need to live fully enriched lives,” says Laura Tenpenny, Marketing Director. “Whether that means giving families trustworthy advice about home safety, or providing professional care within our community, Lake Gibson Village has you covered.” Call Laura at 863-815-6195 if you need to speak with someone about your options or visit us anytime at www.lakegibsonvillage.com.