Senior Housing Talk

What to Expect When Talking to Loved Ones About Senior Housing
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You sit down with a handful of colorful brochures and a burst of optimism to have "the housing talk" with a relative or the person you're caring for -- to help her sort through all the options as she gets older and her needs change. But instead of thanks you get emotions: an angry outburst, maybe even tears, and the accusation that you're trying to "put" her somewhere.

Of course you have to talk to her about her options. But being prepared for the psychological roadblocks you're likely to hit when you broach the subject will help make that conversation more productive, and maybe even pleasant.

David Solie, author of How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap With Our Elders, put it this way in an interview with "You have to understand exactly what you're asking of older people when you ask them to move. You're asking them to give up the equivalent of water or oxygen."

Understand That an Older Adult's Home Represents Control

You're asking the person to let go of control at a time when age itself may be making her feel she's losing control over so much else -- fundamentals like mobility, vision, hearing, their very ability to navigate the world.

SEE ALSO: Find Assisted Living Near You

Look at Housing From Her Point of View

Try visiting an independent living community, assisted living community or nursing home that you'd consider for this person. Imagine you're an older adult on her way in the door with no ticket out. What may appear to be a beautifully run community -- if you don't have to live there -- could look to her like the end of the road.

Be Tactful and Gentle

As the person in your care ages, preparing her for the possibility of living in a nursing home could help make her comfortable with the idea. But don't be too surprised if the glossy retirement-home brochures don't get more than a quick once-over, especially at first. Where you see safety, nutritious meals, medical supervision, and a calendar full of fun activities, she may see loss of control, a building full of strangers, and the end of all that's familiar.

Remind Yourself That She May Come Around to the Idea

Attitudes change, and the most resistant older adults sometimes wind up as the happiest retirement community residents if they eventually realize they need help. But if she doesn't wind up moving when you think she should, you can still support her by making her housing situation as safe and comfortable as possible.

Remember the Bottom Line

Keep in mind that in the end, it's her decision, not yours -- and communicate that thought to her. As long as she's mentally competent, acknowledging that she's in charge of her own life will make the process of helping her navigate the housing maze a more positive and productive one for all involved.

SEE ALSO: Find Assisted Living Near You

Nell Bernstein

Nell Bernstein's writings have appeared on Salon. See full bio

over 1 year, said...

Hi, I am a caregiver for my husband Jerry. He has 2/3 stage dementia. I would very much like to stay in our home but I do need some assistance with his care. I am just now realizing how hard it is getting to be taking on this very heavy load. He has a fit if our friends want to stay with him while I go stopping and becomes very angry with me. He feels he does not need help but he can not walk very steady and must hold on to anything nearby. He refuses to use a cane or a walker. He is in very good health except for this condition. His only other problem is low blood pressure and he tends to collapse at times because of this. I would appreciate any answers that could help my situation. Marge Taylor

almost 3 years, said...

Anonymous caregiver, if it helps any, you're not alone. My spouse and I are dealing with a parent in denial. Past and present relationships with said parent have not been good. Extended family is combative and critical. No, you won't be getting much help. You and your SO need to advocate for each other because no one else will. "(You have to try harder," a social worker told us.) Compassion fatigue is a real danger. A sense of humor helps. Also look into the book "Taking Care of Parents Who Didn't Take Care of You." I wish we could stay in touch. Best of luck to you...

over 3 years, said...

What type of professionals should be contacted when it is imperative that a relative leave their home (which is part of a shared inheritance and being ruined by their inability to maintain...all 11 symptoms of needing to leave are blatantly apparent!)? Resistance is anticipated by her "little brother" who retreates into denial when he feels anyone else (family member) is pushing him to even make this decision, much less in approaching the subject with her, and finally following through regardless of her response to having to leave her home/mess. He is becoming emotionally crippled by this situation and ability to cope. WHO DO WE CALL FOR HELP FOR US???

over 7 years, said...

hello my name gilberto rosado needle aplication for public housing but is to hard to fine and give to the peoples who real needle

over 7 years, said...

why seniors is hard to fine housing programs

about 9 years, said...

These are some wonderful suggestions for the actual sit down and chat. One way to make this whole process goes easier is to make sure that you as the adult child, have done your research. And by research I do not mean made a call and was mailed a brochure. Would you ever consider moving anywhere without first visiting and touring your new home? There are so many misconceptions out there about what assisted living is and the quality of lifestyle it can provide. Many seniors think that they will be put in a nursing home, not a community that is more like a cruise ship. Once the daughter or son has toured and seen and smelled and tasted all that a place has to offer they will be excited to talk to mom about it.