The holidays bring together friends and family from near and far; and they set the stage for loved ones to spend quality time together, something many may not be able to do very often. When you have aging parents, you may not live as close to your family as you once did, so traveling home for the holidays becomes an annual opportunity to visit and see how mom and dad are doing in their home and community.
Holiday visits allow you to see the new paint color your mom chose for the guest bedroom or test out the rocking chair your dad built in his wood shop. These visits can also shed some light on mom and dad's quality of life in their current living situation, which may prompt additional conversations.
Whether you see your parents a few times a year or several times each month, initiating these seemingly tough conversations about senior living can often be a difficult, but vitally important, discussion.
Dorian Mintzer, MSW, PhD, offers seven tips for productively discussing the topic of senior living with your parents:
1. Understand the situation. Regardless of age, when you make a major change in your living situation (new home, remodeling, etc.), it is a stressful experience. In fact, according to The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, it is the 28th most stressful life event, underscoring the importance of always keeping your parents' stress levels in mind.
2. Be realistic. Discussing senior living options is ultimately a series of conversations. Understand that your parents may not see eye to eye with you and that a single conversation will not result in a final decision.
3. Avoid "you" statements. These types of statements can feel accusatory to your parents, even if that is not how you intend them. Adjust statements to be "I" focused: "You don't get around as easily as you used to" transitions to, "I worry about your safety."
4. Be an active listener. Talking about senior living options should be a discussion rich with open-ended questions, in which you ask your parents to elaborate so you can best understand how they feel about a potential move.
5. Encourage a natural dialogue. As an adult child, it may not feel very natural to discuss senior living options with your parents at first, so take breaks during the conversation to engage in activities your parents enjoy -- going for a walk, doing a puzzle, etc. -- so the dialogue feels less forced.
6. Give descriptive examples. If your parents have not considered moving out of their beloved home, they may be resistant to discussing the options. However, when you can provide concrete examples of why a retirement community could be a valuable option, it may help your parents understand. For example, if you have noticed expired food in the fridge, yard work accumulating outside, or steep stairs up to the bedrooms, explain this to your parents to support your point of view.
7. Enlist the experts. Involving the perspectives of others, such as friends outside of your immediate family or medical professionals, can emphasize how many people care about your parents' quality of life and reiterate the concerns you expressed to your parents.
For many adult children, an important element of the senior living discussion is weighing the benefits of aging in place versus aging in community. And while there is no "right" retirement living option for all seniors, having the information to evaluate all the factors can help everybody involved with the senior living discussion have peace of mind with a loved one's living situation. Educate yourself with a free e-book, "7 unexpected financial benefits of living in a senior living community," available at holidaytouch.com/why-move.