Whether you are the senior–or the loved one tasked with making critical care decisions, aging and emotions go hand in hand. There will be times when your feelings are hurt, when you struggle with rejection or the fear of facing mortality. Disagreements that put distance in the relationships with those you love could also occur.
There are far too many variables to keep the choice to transition to a senior living community cut and dry. Here are four tips for dealing with the emotional toll of transitioning to a senior living community.
Keep an Open Mind
It’s easy to get angry when you dwell on the negative associations perpetuated by stereotypes. The truth is that there are many factual benefits to living in a senior community. While it might feel new and scary to explore a major change to your lifestyle, making this transition is an opportunity to connect with new people and a way to access a variety of activities that will enrich your golden years.
If you’re the caregiver trying to rationalize the positive benefits with a reluctant senior, it’s important to respect their feelings and not to try and overstate the amenities. Socialization can be good for seniors, but some individuals might be less likely to engage with others. Activities can be a good way to stimulate the mind, but some seniors would simply rather stay home.
The key is, both parties need to be willing to talk openly and honestly. Discuss the pros and cons of transitioning to a senior living community.
Give it Time
Set your expectations accordingly. Set aside time to have a serious conversation without other disruptions. This means that you shouldn’t bring up the suggestion while waiting in line at the grocery store or driving in the car.
Be prepared to work through the conversation in small doses. Make a suggestion and then step back and give the other party time to process. Encourage them to come to you when they’re ready to continue the conversation.
Have a Realistic Conversation About Safety
One of the biggest sources of conflict stems from the tendency to dismiss inconvenient truths. As we age, we make excuses for forgetfulness or clumsiness. We tend to overstate our personal safety and get confused or angry when we’re forced to confront facts that don’t match the outcome we’re hoping for.
Be open to hearing factual reasons why your loved ones are making a suggestion regarding your well-being. Give everyone in the conversation an opportunity to share what they observe and how they feel you should proceed.
Put feelings with facts whenever appropriate. If you’re concerned about a fall, discuss real statistics and possible outcomes along with all possible solutions. This should not just be the ones that involve around-the-clock care. By engaging in a realistic conversation focused on well-being and not on a pre-decided outcome, you’ll get the full participation of everyone in the conversation.
It can be difficult to separate emotions from our responses, especially during conflict. However, it’s common for an aging adult to simply feel like they’re being forced into a change that they’re not asking for. It’s also common for adult caregivers who are making these decisions to feel guilt.
The best thing that you can do is be gentle with yourself and your loved ones as you each navigate this conversation. Take time to process and allow time and space to have feelings. Let outbursts and negative reactions be fleeting and above all else, remember to be kind. The negative behaviors and guilt are driven by a fear of change more so than anything else.