How to Talk to a Parent About Elder Care

Aging might be a natural process, but the shift that occurs in the relationship between adult children and elderly parents often doesn’t feel natural. When age-related limitations like physical immobility or cognitive decline make you question whether or not your elderly parent is safe living independently, it’s time to have an important conversation about elder care.

Individual feelings and how they are expressed might differ from one individual to another. However, this is a significant life transition, and your aging parent might feel confused, scared, angry, or resentful over their lack of control. These feelings can turn a simple conversation into an emotional trainwreck. Here are a few tips for approaching the conversation with long-term care with an elderly parent.

Do Your Homework

First things first, before you broach the subject of a senior living placement, you need to have a good understanding of the options and requirements for elder care. With the right information, you can navigate a difficult conversation with confidence that you’re guiding your loved one in the right direction. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Types of Facilities Available: Some senior facilities specialize in dementia care, while others provide generalized care. Some facilities operate with a lot of independence, while others are very structured.

Individual Needs: Everyone ages differently. There is no standard pattern of aging. Some individuals experience early cognitive decline in their 60s, while others can live over the 100-year-old mark with a remarkable memory. Consult with medical staff to assess individual care needs for your parent.

Financial Implications: Long-term care is expensive. Fees can also vary by facility and care needs, so it’s smart to take a look at what your parent can afford, what insurance might cover, and what assistance might be available before making any big decisions.

Family Input: You’re not making this decision alone. You, your parent, and your siblings should all have an opportunity to share their feelings on long-term care decisions.

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Have A Two-Way Conversation

When you are ready to sit down and talk with your parent about their future, it’s important to approach the conversation with the right mindset. Within your parent’s ability, this decision should be a two-way conversation filled with empathy and human connection.

Senior living facilities are often stigmatized, compounding the fear that your parent might feel about the transition. Take the time to let them be heard in the conversation and validate their feelings. But more importantly, if your parent begins to react negatively, focus on de-escalating the conversation rather than engaging in the fight.

Objectively Consider All Options

As an individual tasked with the care of an aging parent, you’re likely inclined to a preference in choices. You’ve even invested in research to know what the options are and might even feel qualified to make a choice for your parent. In many cases, doing so would be shortsighted.

As part of a two-way conversation, it’s important to objectively consider all of the options available and assess how your parent feels about these options. A good, old-fashioned pros and cons list can help you and your parent work through the options to make a decision together.

Be Empathetic

Keep in mind that your parent will likely experience a range of emotions during the conversation. This transition represents many different things. For one, it’s a big change. Their environment and daily routine will change, making the biggest parts of their life unrecognizable. That big of a change can be terrifying for anyone at any age. 

Instead of washing everything with a positive attitude, give space for feelings. Let your parent be heard and talk through their feelings in a productive, empathetic way. The goal is not to push them to accept your opinion but to come to a decision together that both parties feel good about. 

For seniors, that fear is also compounded by the fact that this change, in particular, forces them to face their mortality. In most cases, they are aware that they are leaving behind an independent life for the last leg of their journey.

Change is hard. Facing death is hard. And being isolated from those they love the most is the hardest. This is one of the most emotionally intense conversations you’ll have. Having empathy as you talk with your parent about their future is both gentle and compassionate, and will go a long way in providing comfort to them.

The Takeaway on Talking to a Parent about Elder Care

Don’t underestimate the impact of emotions when having difficult conversations. Talking to a parent about elder care can bring a lot of bad feelings to the surface, and if you’re not prepared, it can go poorly. When you’re ready to explore elder care options, our Boynton Beach Assisted Living Facility in Florida is a great place to start.