Overcoming Mom's Resistance to Assisted Living

Opposed to Assisted Living: 2 Common Scenarios and How to Approach Them
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You know it's time. You're haunted by worry, knowing that your parent or other loved one is no longer safe living in her home. And as a caregiver, you're overwhelmed -- her daily needs have simply become greater than you have the time and availability to meet. But unfortunately, knowing your parent needs to move into assisted living or another senior care community and persuading her to do so are two different things. Here's how to convince a reluctant or stubborn parent that moving to assisted living is the right choice for her now.

Scenario 1: Your Loved One Is Resistant, but Open to Discussing Assisted Living

For some older adults, assisted living is an option worth considering, but they need convincing that it's the right choice for them. If this is the case with your parent or other loved one, you're better off than many caregivers because you're in a position to have a reasonable discussion about the future and what it holds.

  • Keep the focus on her health and well-being.
    Help your loved one make a list of the pros and cons of staying and moving. As much as you can, focus on her safety, her physical and mental health, and her daily needs, as these issues are the hardest to get drawn into an argument about. (Your loved one can argue much more easily about whether she really needs art classes or help with transportation than she can about the fact that she keeps forgetting to turn the stove off and can no longer manage her medications safely.) Make sure to take stock of both how things are now and what's down the road. If your loved one has significant health issues or memory problems, it's important to talk about them honestly. Explain that moving now will allow her the largest number of options, since many assisted living communities won't accept new residents with serious health needs.

  • Offer a range of choices.
    Help your loved one think positively about a potential move by helping her make a "wish list" of the features and options she'd like in an assisted living community. Schedule visits to a variety of communities so she can get a sense of the wide array of choices. By selecting among numerous possibilities, she'll feel more in control of the decision and not as if she's being railroaded.

  • Foster social connections to help overcome fears.
    No one likes leaving the known for the unknown, and older adults have even more difficulty with change than the rest of us. Once you've narrowed your search, don't rush -- schedule visits for meals, join in activities, and attend events at the communities you're seriously considering. Help your parent get to know some of the other residents, and ask them what they like about living there. (If she already knows folks there, so much the better; enlist them in encouraging her to join the community. Let them help persuade her by describing their positive experiences.) Plan for future social events as well; is there a weekly card game she could join, or a series of outings she could go along on? Being able to visualize herself in this new life with her friends will help overcome her worries and anxieties.

Scenario 2: Your Loved One Absolutely Refuses to Discuss Moving to Assisted Living

In many families, "Don't put me in a nursing home" has become a sort of mantra, and adult children and other caregivers feel terribly guilty about insisting that a loved one move. But the truth is, assisted living facilities of today are very different from the nursing homes your loved one remembers from days gone by, and you know in your heart that moving is the best thing for her. So hang onto that conviction and stick to your guns.

  • Seize the opportunity presented by a health scare.
    Any change in health status, whether it's a fall, the diagnosis of a new condition, or an illness, presents the perfect opportunity for a move to assisted living. As one Caring.com caregiver said, "Seize the moment and use an injury to explain the necessity of the move -- this is the only explanation my mother-in-law would accept. It's for her safety, so it really is for the best."

  • Use respite care to transition.
    Many assisted living communities offer short-term stays, usually called respite care. Some family members use respite care when they need to be away or just need a break. But respite care can also be the perfect "bridge" to assisted living, offering a chance to introduce your parent or other loved one to an assisted living facility in a nonthreatening way. Several Caring.com members said they'd introduced the idea of assisted living via respite care, then used that positive experience to convince their parents to stay, or to plan ahead for a future move. In some cases, particularly with a loved one suffering from dementia or memory loss, caregivers have moved a parent into respite care and then simply extended the stay into permanence.

  • Enlist the doctor's help.
    We all know that sometimes a loved one can hear things from a professional that they can't hear from us. If you have the ability to contact your loved one's doctor, ask her to explain to your loved one why her health needs now require more care than is available at home.

  • Involve a geriatric care manager.
    When it comes to assessing an older adult's care needs and figuring out the relative costs of multiple options, no one has more experience than a geriatric care manager. For example, if your parent is arguing that getting some in-home care will be sufficient to allow her to remain in her home, a geriatric care manager can run the numbers and explain that assisted living is likely to provide that care at a more affordable cost in the long term.

  • Say, "I just can't do this anymore."
    Caregiving reverses roles, putting adult kids in the responsible role and making their parents dependent, which is uncomfortable for everyone involved. And older adults often become more selfish as they age, their worldview narrowing to encompass primarily their own aches, pains, and needs, which makes them sometimes overlook the difficulties they're causing for others. As adult children, we often play into this dynamic by being long-suffering and downplaying the toll that caregiving is taking on us. (No one wants to complain, and we don't want to make our parents feel bad.)

But in reality, your parents love you, and they don't want you to suffer. If you're exhausted, sick, sleepless, and stressed, that's dangerous for you -- and of course it's not what your parents would want for you if they were able to see the situation clearly. So when all else fails, speak up. If you've compromised your work so much that you fear losing your job, tell them. If the burdens of caregiving are interfering with being a good parent or are harming your marriage, say so.

Help them see your situation as clearly as possible and explain that being responsible for their care is taking too great a toll on you to sustain. You have the right to say, "I just can't do this anymore" -- and they have the right to know what's really going on.


over 1 year ago, said...

I am a Geriatric Care Manager, this article has excellent advice.


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