Tips for a Successful Conversation About Senior Living With Your Family

succesful conversation

Theologian Paul Tillich once said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” This is especially true when it comes to talking with your family about a loved one moving to senior living. It’s so important to approach the topic in a way that encourages honest dialogue so that your family can make a decision that everyone feels good about. 

And it all starts with listening: to your own instincts, to your family members, to others you trust, and most importantly, to the loved one that will be making the move.

Tips on how to talk with your family about moving to senior living

Preparing for the conversation. You don’t need to suddenly become an expert. But do some homework on the various options available in senior living. Get familiar with the differences between independent living, assisted living, and memory care, so that you can have a good idea of which level of care would be most appropriate. Research local senior living communities and download their brochure or newsletter, in case it feels right to share that information now. That way, if your parent or loved one is open to visiting a community, you will be ready to arrange it. 

And, don’t forget to ask around…friends, neighbors, physicians, clergy…to see if they have suggestions or ideas on moving to senior living. 

Also, decide what your goals are for the conversation. Do you simply want to introduce the subject, and then gather again for more in-depth discussions? Moving to a senior living community isn’t usually something you decide quickly. And, if you are including other family members in the initial discussion, ask them in advance how they feel. Do they also see a need for this move? What are their concerns? Try to get on the same page, if possible, before bringing up the subject to the beloved family member.

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Where and when to have the conversation. The key to a successful conversation about moving to senior living is everyone feeling comfortable, not cornered or pressured. In some cases, it feels right to plan ahead and schedule a talk, say after lunch or when the family is gathered for an occasion. But spontaneity might work as well, such as when you and Mom are cleaning up the kitchen, or you and Dad are going for a walk.  

Whether you choose your living room or a favorite park bench, remember to ease into it, without pressure. 

Who should be with you when you have the conversation. Each family is different, and you have to decide if your parent or loved one would best respond to the idea of moving to senior living by hearing it first from you, or from you and your siblings. If others are included from the beginning, ask them to share their concerns for your loved one. Remind everyone to keep it positive and loving—the goal is to enhance your loved one’s life, and help them stay safe and healthy—and moving to senior living might be the answer. 

How to open the conversation. Some suggestions could be:  

  • “There’s something I’d like to talk about now, so you can relax about the future.”
  • “Do you like living on your own? Is it ever lonely? Would it be easier if you had some help during the day?”
  • You are doing well now, but what if something changes? Have you thought about a plan?” 
  • “It must get boring eating in front of the TV. What if you could enjoy a wonderful meal without any dishes to do? And not have to eat alone?”
  • “I’ve heard about this great community where you can relax and enjoy life…no more worries about the yard, house, driving, or needing help late at night. Wouldn’t it be nice to live carefreely?”
  • “I’ve had you on my mind lately, and I care about how you are doing. Is there anything you’d like to talk about?”

What to say and what not to say. Say community, not facility. Apartment or new home, not unit or room. Companionship and friends, not patients. Restaurant-style dining and chef-prepared meals, not just food. Describe some of the amenities they can enjoy, such as a fitness center, library, barber shop/salon, spa, and outdoor areas. And, don’t forget to mention services such as housekeeping, scheduled transportation, concierge, activities, outings and more.

Listen, listen, listen. Your parent(s) or loved one might have been considering moving to a retirement senior living community already. Or, they might fear it will mean giving up their independence, or that their relationship with you will change, or that this decision means they are giving up on life. Whatever their concerns, let them express them, and just listen. The more your loved one feels heard, the more open they will be to what you have to say.  

We understand making the transition to senior living can be one of the biggest decisions in the life of a senior. At Senior Star, we are here to help. Download our free guide Choosing the Right Community for more in-depth and helpful information. Questions about senior living?  Contact us to learn more.


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