As your parents age, there may come a time when they are not able to live as independently as before, whether because of a chronic illness, injury, or decline in general health. As an adult-child of an aging parent, it may fall upon you to begin the conversation about a move to a retirement community or even assisted living, depending on the degree of need. Having this conversation can be challenging and emotional, especially because the majority of aging Americans are more attracted to the idea of “aging in place” in their current home.   

Here are four tips that will help you approach this fragile subject with empathy and openness that will put you and your loved one on the same page about this transition.

Keep it candid and casual: Don’t approach this conversation on the defense, expecting the worst; this attitude might inadvertently illicit the negative reactions you are fearing. Also, don’t act as if the decision has been made, and suspend judgments about how your parents might feel about their aging. Do approach the conversation with an appropriate amount of relaxation and even humor. Follow the lead of your parent, and let that guide the conversation in a calm and light manner. 

Start early: Don’t wait until the last minute to bring up this discussion with your aging parent. Open the lines of communication early and often so that the topic of their long-term assisted care does not come off as a necessity for you, as if you want the responsibility of their care off your plate when their health has declined. Consider offering your thoughts about how you might plan for your own long-term care—show that this is about the process of organized planning and not about the necessity created by their old age.

Go on a tour together: Go with your parents to tour the retirement communities and/or assisted living facilities in your area. Taking a tour can show them what kind of environment they’ll be living in and can also remind an aging parent that the things that they love and value about living at home can be found in other settings. Visiting together will show your parents that this conversation isn’t just about moving them to assisted living; it’s about a transition for the entire family.

Review finances: Come to the conversation educated about the costs of assisted living and the recourses that can be used to find senior living placement. Be sure to recognize that many of the things your loved one pays for today will be covered under the monthly fee at the retirement community. One reason that your parents may resist is the idea that assisted living will drain their savings or retirement fund. Know what the costs of your local facilities are and the different options for payment.

This conversation can take time, and many aging parents may resist at first. Do not pressure your parents, but also do not let their health decline without the proper care. It’s definitely a tricky line to straddle. So, stay empathetic, and put yourself into your parents’ shoes. Guide and don’t steer them to their decision to choose assisted living.

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