When should you consider assisted living?

It’s a conversation none of us looks forward to. But it’s one many of us will have to have sooner or later.

As our parents age, we may begin to notice that they can no longer take care of themselves on their own. That’s when it’s time to have an uncomfortable discussion about assisted living options.

Here are some tips for when and how to have the talk.

Know the signs

There are many signs you can look for in your aging parent that could signify it might be time to look into assisted living. Some of these on their own are a normal part of aging and may not be a big concern, but if you see several of these, it may be time.

  • Memory loss. As we age, many of experience memory loss and general forgetfulness, but it can become troublesome when it puts your parent in danger.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family. Many seniors may want to be less active as they age. It’s to be expected that they may not want to be the last one to leave a party, but if they don’t want to go at all, you should ask why. This could be a sign of a larger problem.
  • Difficulty performing everyday functions. Again, you should expect your parents to slow down. But watch for signs that they’re losing the ability to drive on their own, take daily medications, go grocery shopping, cook for themselves, bathe themselves, pay their bills or accurately balance their checkbooks.

Listen more than you talk

The best way to begin the conversation with your parent about assisted living is to ask questions – and truly listen to the answers. Start simply by asking something like, “How have you been doing living alone?” or “Do you think you’d be happier if you didn’t have to handle all of these responsibilities by yourself?”

Prepare for your parent to be defensive. And remind yourself that this first conversation isn’t a debate. It’s your job to just listen at first. You’ll have a chance in subsequent discussions to make the case for assisted living. You may be surprised by their willingness to tell you that yes, they’ve thought about moving to a facility. But even if they insist they want to stay in their home, you’ve planted a seed and given them something to consider.

Share your concerns

If you’ve noticed some of the things on the list above, let your parent know you’ve noticed. Make a list if you need to, and read it to them. Do your best to be compassionate, not accusatory. Give them a chance to respond, and listen. At the very least, they will know how much you care.

Explain their options

While you may fear what could happen if your aging parent stays at home alone, they may be afraid of the change that would come with moving. Remember that ultimately you want them to be happy, healthy and safe. It’s better to have this conversation while they still understand all of their options. Many parents may envision drab, hospital-style settings and not know about the vibrant life filled with friends and activities that seniors can experience in assisted living. Offer to take them on a “no-pressure” tour, just to give them something to think about. And let them know how much you’re thinking about them.