Talking to your Parents about Retirement Living

 When and how to have the talk is one of the most daunting and emotional challenges faced by adult children.  Too often it occurs after a crisis such as:  an undiscovered fall, hospitalization for a hip or leg injury or loss of a spouse.  Conversations under these difficult circumstances are usually not fruitful. Parents are defensive, angry and feel a loss of independence.  Adult children feel guilty and distressed that their best intentions of being helpful are misunderstood.  The best advice is to avoid crisis conversations and start discussions early and often over time.   Remember you are building a new relationship with your parents and need to gain their trust and respect.  Here are some tips from the experts.

Start the Conversation early and often

  1. Get together with family, share your thoughts and be on the same page
  2. Talk to friends who have had positive discussions with their parents and learn from them
  3. Research the options that potentially will suit your parent not yourself. Ensure you know the benefits of living in a retirement home so you can help them discover solutions to their issues
  4. Initiate the conversation via the most trusted family member and focus on future options. Reassure them that this is a discussion about choices and you are not ”putting them in a home”.  Cover the range of independent living, assisted living options.  If this conversation generates a stonewall or angry reaction – it may be best to stop and try another approach 

Regroup to a related topic that may lead to a conversation about retirement living

  1. Discuss where important documents are in the home in case of an emergency
  2. Revisit the power of attorney, and wills with a view to ask them if they want any changes
  3. Discuss any difficult home management issues such as roof leaks, outdoor maintenance, or de-cluttering basements
  4. Discuss issues with lifestyle & health – moldy food, sitting home alone, sad moods, driving issues, health or medication problems
  5. Recount the experience of an associate’s parent or friend’s move to a retirement home in a light tone that stimulates conversation about the positive effect on their life

Share your emotions, become a “thinking partner” and not a parent

  1. Let them know your concern – it’s hard for you to see them isolated, slowing down or  lonely  and you know they pride themselves on managing everything on their own but you worry and want to make life easier
  2. Listen to them express themselves and acknowledge their fears about loss of independence and use the opportunity to address misconceptions they might have about the old “nursing home stereotype” – rephrase where possible and bridge to discussions about options
  3. Go slow and always let them know you respect their wishes – avoid frustrated behaviour

Be ready to act in a crisis

  1. If you have had earlier conversations and established trust, your parent(s) may see your advice as the solution to their problem
  2. Look for residences that offer 2-3 month stays that will help parent(s) feel less threatened by a permanent move