Even the idea of assisted living or a nursing home can strike fear into the hearts of many older Americans. It is an extremely sensitive topic and, therefore, you should approach it with care. If you feel that moving your parent or loved one to assisted living or another long-term care facility is in their best interest, you may not know how to start the conversation. It is probably not anyone’s first choice, but sometimes it is the only safe option.

So, how do you approach the subject? You must do so with planning, care and consideration. Here are some guidelines that will help you decide what to say.

Dos

  • If possible, start the conversation early—before a health emergency strikes. Discuss what you might do with your parent and what their preferences would be if a situation arose in which they could no longer care for themselves at home.
  • Try to bring up the topic naturally instead of making a big deal and saying, “We need to talk about something important.” Letting the conversation flow instead of forcing it will reduce unnecessary pressure.
  • Be a good listener. Your parent will likely have numerous concerns and questions. Rather than pushing your agenda, hear them out first.
  • Come into the conversation prepared. Do your research so that you can address your loved one’s concerns and, ideally, answer at least some of their questions.
  • Shop different facilities with your parent and allow them to see the space for themselves. They should choose, if possible, where they will live.
  • Understand that this might not be a one-time conversation. Discussing this might be a process—the start of many conversations to come.

Don’ts

  • Don’t issue ultimatums or order your parent to do anything. This is their life. If they still have decision-making capacity, they should play a big part in deciding what happens next. Where they move and when they move should be a joint decision.
  • Don’t forget that this is likely where your parent will live for the rest of their days. This is a big decision. Give it time.
  • Don’t discount factors like community and events at the facilities you look at. These activities often make all the difference for individuals living in long-term care facilities. Maintaining social activity has positive mental and physical effects.

Talking to your parent about the transition to a long-term care facility is a daunting prospect. However, the manner with which you approach the subject matters. These guidelines will give you a place to begin.