How to Talk to Your Loved One about Senior Living

Many seniors start their journey to a community like Branchlands all on their own. They investigate their options, and they bring them up with friends and family for discussion, input, and collaboration along the way.

Other times the journey begins with you—a loved one who feels that senior living might be the right choice. Whether you’re concerned about social isolation or growing caregiving needs, you’re looking to what’s best for your loved one now and in the future.

Still, starting the conversation can be hard. Your senior might have negative assumptions about senior living or might fear the unknown. They might even feel hurt, if they think that the topic means you think less of them or their capabilities.

It helps to be thoughtful about how you talk about senior living. You want to enter potentially sensitive territory in a way most likely to lead to a productive dialog. You want, too, to be prepared for where the conversation might go.

Bring the family together

Before the big conversation, you might want to talk to other family members and concerned parties.

You’re not assembling a coalition to confront your senior (We’ve all talked it over—you’re moving into senior living!) You are making sure that everyone has a chance to offer their insights.

Do others agree that senior living might be a good choice? Do they have any thoughts on how to broach the topic?

These conversations also give other members of your loved one’s inner circle a chance to prepare. Your initial conversation might lead your beloved senior to quickly seek out others, to survey their opinions.

Think about your words

People have a lot of ideas about what senior living might be like. Terms like nursing home and retirement home can carry a lot of baggage. When your senior hears them, do they picture a drab institution or nurses brandishing large hypodermic needles?

Using the right terms in your conversation—independent or assisted living, community, amenities—lets you leave behind that baggage and paint a clearer picture of the sort of life you’re discussing. Getting the words right, of course, takes some research.

Know the senior living options

There are several different types of senior living. Learning about these will help you figure out which option might be right for your senior to consider.

The better you understand the appropriate option, the better you can answer questions and doubts which your senior might bring up.

Finally, a little research will let you more clearly explain the potential benefits, since you’ll know more about the rich opportunities and support available in that community.

“A common misconception about senior living communities is that residents lose the personal freedoms that come with living in their own homes. Oh contraire! Branchlands residents live life on their terms, with the added bonus of new friends and a vibrant community.” – 7 Benefits of Independent Living Communities

Listen carefully

Two women pulling two pieces of exercise equipment back and forth
There’s some give and take in any healthy relationship.

When you first talk about senior living, you might find that your loved one is actually not as wary as you worried they would be. They might be curious, excited, or neutral. If so, great!

If they do have strong emotions or concerns, it’s really important that you ask questions and listen closely to find out what those are.

Why do they want to stay home? What are the particular reasons and feelings behind this desire?

You might also invite them to tell you more about what they want for their lives. What would they like to see, in terms of their future? What kind of context or changes would make it easier for them to live the life they want?

If these desires align with what senior living provides, you can find the appropriate time to gently point that out.

Arrange a visit to a senior living community

The first conversation might only be a starting point for a series of conversations. There’s no right way to go about planning for the future. A good step along the way, though, is to find a time to visit a senior living community together.

While there are differences among communities, this would let both of you get the clearest sense of what senior living looks and feels like. It can help wipe away faulty assumptions and give you a basis for making a good decision.

A visit also offers a springboard for another important consideration: which community is the right one?

The sooner, the better

Three people in astronaut suits
Starting some big conversations can feel like heading into uncharted territory. (This photo comes from a Branchlands trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.)

It can feel especially hard to bring up this topic when your senior is in great health. It might seem easier to wait until serious problems arise, since a problem would give you a clear ‘reason’ for discussing a big life transition.

It’s better not to wait.

First, if your senior’s health or capabilities suddenly deteriorate, that will be a very stressful time. The stress of that immediate situation will make it harder to focus on the future and on making the right decision.

Second, planning for the future works best well in advance. Just like it’s a good idea to plan for retirement long before actually reaching retirement age, you’ll both feel more secure if you’ve talked through the topic and come up with a plan. Even if your senior decides they are only interested in senior living when they require regular assistance with daily tasks, you’ll want to have discussed their preferences and options in advance.

Finally, remember that senior living is not a place for residents who have no other options. All the seniors in independent living communities, and many of them in assisted living communities, could easily continue life outside them. They become senior living residents because it gives them higher quality of life, more opportunities, and fewer worries. Your loved one might get even more out of the community if they move in when they’re still in great shape.

We’d love to help you navigate this important conversation. If you have questions or want to take a tour of Branchlands with your senior, just let us know!