How to approach the first conversation about retirement living with a loved one

If your loved one needs more daily support, and you believe a senior living community may be their best option, it's important to help find them a caring environment that provides the extra assistance they may need—whether that be additional care services, assistance with meals or cleaning, more social interaction, or even an enhanced sense of personal security. Whether you're seeking a retirement residence that offers a more independent lifestyle, or one with more personal care support, your loved one has many living and care options at their disposal; however, in some cases, they may not know it.

If you're unsure of how to approach the first conversation about retirement living with them, here are some tips that can help.

Set aside time for the discussion
In a discussion with Everyday Health, Sharon A. Brangman, MD, chief of geriatrics at Upstate Medical University, said that those who believe their loved one may benefit from a retirement community and want to explore the option with them should use a firm but gentle approach when starting the discussion. Make sure you set aside plenty of time for the initial conversation so both you and your loved one have enough time to voice your feelings and opinions.

"Discuss living arrangements and desired amenities."

Consider including other family members in the discussion
Not only is this a major life decision for your loved one, it also concerns you and the rest of your family. Make sure to consider how your loved one would feel if you decided to bring along other family members for the discussion; it's best to keep the conversation intimate and only involve people your aging parent trusts.

Make them feel comfortable, not overwhelmed
Do your best not to make your loved one feel overwhelmed in the initial conversation, as it could set the stage for how later discussions may go. According to the Alzheimer's Society of Canada, the move from home to community can be made easier if you prepare ahead of time. Let your loved one know they are the most important person in this process and all of their feelings will be considered and honoured, and that the final decision will be theirs.

Make sure your loved one knows you and your family members will visit after the move.
Make sure your loved one knows you and your family members will visit after the move.

Ask open-ended questions
If you ask open-ended questions, your loved one may open up more and discuss how they are feeling about the idea of transitioning to a seniors' home. Discussing which living arrangements and amenities your loved one desires may help them feel more comfortable and willing to further the conversation. Also, encourage your loved one to ask any questions they may have, and assure them that you'll assist with the research process to help them find a place they'd be happy to call home.

If you think retirement living may be a good option for your loved one, consider reading Chartwell's "Starting the Conversation" Guide for more helpful tips on approaching the topic.