How do you Talk to Aging Loved Ones About Moving?
Diane Stevens’ parents were high-school sweethearts. They married in 1957, moved from the city and settled in the suburbs, raised their daughter, and decades later upon their retirement, filled their days with pursuit of their favorite pastimes: shopping excursions, dining at new restaurants, and trips to Aruba. Diane’s father has now passed, and her mother remains at home, but living alone and the day-to-day responsibilities of home ownership are resulting in depression, loneliness, anxiety, and stress.
“This isn’t how she envisioned her life would be at this stage,” Ms. Stevens says. “She misses my father, and she’s exhausted from taking care of the house. It’s time for her to move to a senior community where the stressors will be greatly reduced, but she refuses to have any conversations about it. She shuts down when I bring up the topic.”
Many adult children are facing this same dilemma: How do you talk to your parent or loved one about moving?
“It’s an awkward subject to bring up,” says Stacy Swarts-Carver, LSW, Leasing Manager at Siena Village and Summer Hill of Wayne, CHCC’s independent-senior apartment complexes in Wayne. “The majority of seniors would like to age in place, but that may not be realistic. With research, planning, empathy, and patience, you can start productive, honest, and frank conversations about the most beneficial senior-living option for your loved one.”
Before starting a conversation, make observations and do research. Take note of tasks your parent or loved one appears to be struggling with, safety concerns, cognitive issues, and overall physical, mental, and spiritual health. Next, research senior-living options to determine the most appropriate residence. Schedule tours for yourself so you will be able to have more realistic discussions with your loved one.
“We receive so many inquiries from individuals seeking to learn the difference between independent, pre-assisted, and assisted living; skilled-nursing care; adult day services; and memory-care options,” says Julie Lee, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing & Development Officer. “They value having a conversation with a knowledgeable individual in the field, and more important, they appreciate a sympathetic ear.”
Armed with research, it’s time to begin the conversation, preferably in person. You know your loved one best, so you will know the most advantageous approach. A direct opening might be, “You seem a little lonely. Would you be happier living in a community with lots of activities for you to enjoy?” An indirect tactic is “Bonnie’s mom just sold her house and moved to assisted living. She was really struggling to take care of the house, especially after she started using a walker, and now she’s so relieved.”
No matter how your loved one responds, bear in mind that moving is a process; it isn’t a once-and-done conversation. Expect many discussions on the topic. While you may be ready for your loved one to move, he/she may not.
“Don’t overload the conversation with research and statistics. That’s overwhelming, and when people get overwhelmed, they tend to get defensive,” says Victoria Durante, Admissions Director of The Longview Assisted Living at CHCC. “Defensiveness quickly ends a conversation.”
If your conversations aren’t productive and a bit tension-filled, consider asking a third party to take your place in discussions.
“Your parent may be more receptive to having a conversation with his or her religious leader, physician, or friend,” says Mary Mariconda, Director of Hillcrest, CHCC’s “pre-assisted living” residence.
All involved should be open to your loved one’s requests and suggestions. Be an advocate, not an opponent.
“The ideal situation is make a change well before the situation has become dire or a crisis occurs. The key is to have a plan in place,” says Andrea Moraski, Residency Counselor at The Vista, CHCC’s Continuing Care Retirement Community being built on its Wyckoff/Hawthorne campus.
“I don’t want to be a burden to my children down the road,” says Vista Vantage Club member Irene Turrisi. “So when my friends mentioned that they were moving to The Vista, I went online for more information. I’m looking forward to everything about living there!”
Always remember that the final decision to move is your loved one’s.
“Aging can be fulfilling and profound for your loved one, “especially with your support and respect,” says Jennifer Ross, CALA, CHSP, Director of Evergreen Court, CHCC’s independent senior apartment complex in Wyckoff.