How to Have “the Conversation” About Senior Living

The decision to move to retirement living isn’t one you’ll make often in your life. Whether looking for yourself or for an aging loved one, you want the decision to be right, for everyone to be on the same page. But having the conversation about senior living isn’t easy. There are emotions involved, sometimes difficult ones. Sometimes not everyone agrees. 

We know, we’ve been there helping thousands of families for decades have “the conversation” and here are our five best tips for making the talk that much less awkward. 

  • Understand the senior perspective. 

The move to retirement living, whether it be independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing (nursing home level) or long-term care, involves a lot of emotions, a lot of questions, a lot of concerns. And the concerns Mom or Dad have are probably different than those the rest of the family are experiencing. How will I leave this house? I raised my children here. Will I like the food? Will I make friends? Is this the right decision? Take time to ask your aging loved ones about their concerns and apprehensions. Let those concerns guide your questions and search for answers. 

  • Understand the family perspective. 

Just as the person who’s moving has concerns about the transition, family members have their own as well. How are we going to sort through all of Mom and Dad’s things? I’m sad to see this house sell. Does this community have the right care for Mom? Is this the right decision? At Immanuel, our expert senior living consultants have worked for decades helping families navigate their concerns and get answers. What we’ve found is this last questions - Is this the right decision? - is near the top of everyone’s question list. There are common ground between the concerns of seniors and their families, there are differences, too. In order to get some peace of mind, you have to be open and share them. 

  • Expect multiple conversations. 

You know that old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day?” It’s also true about having the conversation about senior living. Knowing you or your loved one’s wishes about retirement is a good place to start. But don’t expect to come to decisions after just one conversation. Start early and be patient. It may take multiple conversations before you begin the search for retirement living. 

  • Use “I” statements. 

Mom, I’m worried about you living alone. 

Mom, you’re not safe on your own anymore.

“I” statements begin with an “I” and can help you assert feelings in a way that avoids blame placed on the other person. Saying “I’m worried about you,” opens up the conversation with your loved one. Saying “Mom, you’re not safe on your own anymore,” quickly places blame on your aging loved one, shutting down the conversation. For productive, open conversations, talk about your concerns in “I” statements. 

  • Set an intention. 

Setting intentions for retirement living conversations can help you ease the awkwardness. Some good conversation intentions may include: getting a feel for how your loved one feels about retirement living options; solutions for managing a health condition; or understanding how much maintenance work the house has become. Intentions should start out as high level conversations and then focus into your specific concerns and wishes as the conversation unfolds. 

Having the conversation isn’t easy and it’s different for every family. For your step-by-step guide on you or your loved one’s road through retirement, download our free Retirement Planning Guide. Inside, you’ll find our proven four-step process for knowing the right first step for you or your loved one, including when to know when the timing is right, getting everyone on the same page and financial considerations. Click HERE to download your free copy today.