As your parents get older, it may become increasingly difficult for them to live alone. While surveys show most people over the age of 65 prefer to age in place, meaning not leave their homes, medical conditions, increasing frailty or even social isolation may make that strategy ultimately dangerous to their well-being.
If your parents can’t see clearly, for example, they may trip on rugs that 20 years ago gave them no problem. If they have arthritis, they may slip in the bathroom and break a hip. If they live alone and their children live miles away, they may become depressed and neglect healthy self-care.
At some point, you may have to talk to your parents about retirement living. What are the best ways to have that discussion? Here are some tried-and-true methods.
It’s a good idea to have a talk with your aging parents at some point about where they want to live during retirement. This could happen even before they reach retirement age. You need to have a frank discussion about their feelings. They may actually want to move to retirement living at some point, understanding that elderly people sometimes cannot care for themselves adequately.
If they are wedded to aging in place, you need to know that. If finances are a concern, you need to know that as well. Planning ahead also avoids having to make decisions as a result of a crisis — after the slip in the bathroom has happened or the gas burner was left on all night.
Make It a Team Effort
Ideally, the discussion will involve your brothers and sisters and any other family members who might be involved in your parents’ care. Everyone needs to have the same facts about your parents’ feelings about retirement. You want to avoid family tensions where one side believes your parents should never move and the other side wants them to move immediately.
You also need to take into account family members’ feelings. Does one sibling live close and feel all the care falls on them unfairly? Is there a way the rest of you could help? You need to work toward a consensus so everyone, parents included, is on the same page. A good time to have the discussion might be family gatherings, such as Thanksgiving.
Visit Retirement Communities
Older people who have come to need care or fear what will happen when they can no longer do activities of daily living might be very reassured — and even relieved — when they visit a retirement community:
- There are activities, pleasurable events and beautiful surroundings.
- There is care when it is needed.
- Close-by medical attention is available.
Many facilities also offer counseling and coaching for families in the transition to moving a parent to a retirement community. Your parents can ask questions and begin to feel comfortable before they move in.
Understand Your Parents’ Feelings
One of the most important steps here is empathizing with your parents’ feelings. We will all be in their shoes eventually. People are living longer and longer, and our society is evolving to have many more options for older people than in the past.
If you live far away from your elderly parent and really want them in a retirement community soon to ease the stress of commuting to their house, or you’re living in anxiety about their safety, share that feeling with them so they understand where you’re coming from. But don’t try to force them to make a move with which they are uncomfortable. Take steps to make both of you comfortable.
Think About Interim Steps
If you have reason to fear for your parents’ safety or they are finding it difficult to cope alone, consider interim steps as you look at retirement communities. A home health aide several days a week or even a concerned neighbor dropping in to chat every couple of days may be all that is needed right now.
Older people benefit from a continuum of care. Your peace of mind will benefit from a continuum of care. It will also get your parents in the mindset of living in a web of care if they do ultimately make the move to a retirement community.