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Elizabeth Bemis

By: Elizabeth Bemis on August 24th, 2022

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5 Recommendations for Broaching the Assisted Living Conversation

Independent Senior Living  |  senior living nutrition  |  senior living homes  |  Aging & Caregiving  |  dependent senior living

There are some conversations that can feel daunting and overwhelming. A talk with your loved one about the possibility of moving to an assisted living community is certainly one of them. With age-related realities and family dynamics stirring up all kinds of emotions, the subject may be a challenging one to broach with the senior in your life. To help ease any dread you may have and plan for a productive discussion, we’re highlighting some valuable advice on how to approach this conversation.


1. Prepare, don’t procrastinate.


Many people who find themselves facing this talk are riddled with anxieties about how their aging parent or loved one will respond. They don’t want to incite anger or defensiveness, a fear that can make anyone feel uneasy about starting the conversation. Of course, it’s human nature to avoid talking about things that make us uncomfortable. 


But every week, month, or year that this talk goes unhad is more time during which important physical, mental and emotional needs may go unaddressed. Procrastination is not the answer. It only increases the chances of having to make this type of transition when the conditions are more urgent and stressful—with less time to plan and arrange thoughtfully. 


Instead of avoiding the topic, put your energy into preparing for it. There’s no line-by-line instruction manual on how to communicate your thoughts around assisted living, but you can prepare yourself for the conversation. It’s best to come equipped with information on things like:



Ultimately, one of the best ways to ensure you have the information you need is to start the planning process and conversation early. 


2. Include everyone in the conversation.


Go into this with the understanding that caregiving is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different people will have differing opinions about what’s best, how they can contribute, and what options are most suitable. That’s why it’s important to bring everyone to the table for this conversation. Each family member’s thoughts should be welcomed and heard during your discussion on assisted living.


It’s certainly possible that some members of the group will have different beliefs about what level of care your loved one needs. In some cases, caregivers may even feel resentment or guilt toward themselves or another person throughout the decision-making process. This can be quite common. 


If you come to a point at which no one is agreeing and no decisions are being made, it may be a good idea to involve your loved one’s healthcare team in the discussion. They can offer useful insights into the most appropriate type of care for the senior. And if this still doesn’t foster consensus among the group, consider leveraging family or elder mediation services that help divided families overcome their differences and move toward workable outcomes.

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3. Try to keep judgment at bay.


This is not an easy transition to accept for seniors who feel they are losing a sense of independence. We spend our whole lives caring for ourselves and tending to our own needs as well as those of others. So the idea of giving up this part of one’s self in some way can be extremely difficult and should be handled delicately, not with judgment.


Think about how you would want to be treated in this scenario if you were in your loved one’s position—and you may very well be one day. Don’t use old wounds to force the idea of assisted living upon them. Hard as it may be, leave your own judgment at the door and go into the discussion with an open mind, prepared to accept your loved one's choices and support them in their decisions.   


Do your best not to assume your loved one needs you to take over and make their decisions for them. Offering to do it together can help them maintain a sense of control. And as a caregiver, you can support your loved one’s sense of independence by seeking out ways to help them adjust to age-related changes without sacrificing their way of life. Make these ideas and efforts part of the conversation to prevent them from feeling threatened by the discussion.


4. Lead with compassion, empathy, and laughter.


Instead of being the one to talk the whole time, actively listen to your loved one’s fears and concerns. It’s possible they may already be receptive to this change, but even if they’re not, it’s critical to approach the talk with compassion and empathy.


You can avoid prompting feelings of powerlessness by inviting them into the conversation. Truly listening to your aging loved one can ensure that their wishes are met and they feel empowered to participate in the decision-making process (rather than be told what to do).


In addition, don’t underestimate the positive impact of laughter. It may seem counter-intuitive considering the seriousness of the topic, but try to find humor in even the most bizarre circumstances, allowing it to relax you. You never want to approach this subject with pent-up emotions, so do what you can to bring a lightness and sense of humor to the table. Then follow your loved one's lead and calmly let it guide the conversation.


Perhaps initiate the conversation by leading with your own long-term care wishes or sharing an article or story about someone faced with a similar decision. Another option for broaching the topic is explaining how the situation has been impacting you personally. They may be more likely to accept their reality and embrace a move to assisted living when they realize that doing so will actually lighten your load.


5. Seek out resources and support.


In order to make the most informed decisions during this discussion, tap into the spectrum of resources available to seniors and caregivers today. Choose ones that contain a breadth and depth of information aimed at supporting the important work of caregivers. And be sure to visit prospective assisted living communities to get a better sense of their offerings. Talk to administrators and staff, and learn all about various programs, services, and activities for residents.


Once you get the conversation going, it will likely get easier, and you’ll feel peace of mind about the agreed-upon plans for long-term care. But if all of this still feels too overwhelming, even with other family members by your side, think about having a professional guide you through the process. There’s no easy button for this kind of task, so be kind to yourself and root for the best outcome.


To find out how United Methodist Homes provides a wealth of offerings and opportunities to support the health and well-being of our residents, contact us today or schedule a complimentary visit now. For additional tips on senior health and lifestyle issues, check out our blog


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About Elizabeth Bemis

In 1998, I drove past an assisted living community construction site, learned that it was part of United Methodist Homes and realized the next stop on my professional journey was to work for a mission driven organization. Soon after, I joined the team as Executive Director of our Middlewoods of Farmington community and later served as Regional Manager for the Middlewoods properties before accepting my current role as Vice President of Marketing, Promotions, and Assisted Living Operations. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, reading, walking, and love working alongside our staff, residents, and families to build strong communities that reflect the mission, vision, and values of United Methodist Homes.

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.