Transitioning to long-term care: How to start the conversation

When seniors get to stay in their communities, everyone benefits. Often, the best living options for seniors are those that allow them to age in their home for as long as possible, connected to their families, friends and neighbors.

Sometimes, there comes a point when a senior living center is the best alternative for a loved one’s safety, care and overall well-being. Making the best choice for your senior loved one starts with a conversation that isn’t always easy.

Moving to long-term care is often associated with a loss of independence. Your senior loved one will have doubts and questions. There are many emotions involved, and not all friends and family members may agree on what the right path is.

With so many options and factors to consider, talking about these issues can become overwhelming. However, with a little research and guidance, starting the conversation can be productive and beneficial for everyone involved.

One of the best tips for beginning this conversation is to start it before long-term care is necessary. Preemptively introducing the idea of senior living gives the senior and their loved ones appropriate time to process the possibility, ask good questions and explore potential options. This transition is a significant change for those involved, so allowing adequate time to digest thoughts and emotions is essential.

Here are some tips to consider for having those first conversations about long-term care:

Pick a comfortable place: Having this conversation in an environment that is familiar and safe can be important. Gather around the kitchen table or gather in the living room. Being in a safe space is conducive to being mentally and emotionally open to new ideas.

Avoid distractions: Turn off the TV and put your smart phone away. Focus on listening and communicating.

Include important loved ones: Make sure the conversation happens with friends and family members who your senior family members trust and who may have a role or stake in the decision. Often, this means you will have more than one conversation with different people at the table.

Show empathy: Moving to a long-term community is a big change. It is essential that you express support and understanding for your senior loved one as they work through their questions and doubts.

Be an active listener: It’s critical to do all you can to make sure the wishes of your senior loved one guide the process. Be open to new ideas and perspectives. After all, the health and happiness of your aging loved one is what matters most.

Study your choices: There are a broad range of services available to seniors and their families who are considering long-term care — from in-home support to 24/7 care in a nursing home. Resources are available to help guide you as explore the possibilities.

While discussing the transition to long-term care can seem like a daunting task, the best decisions start with that first conversation with a loved one. It can end up leading to the best outcome for their quality of life.

For additional resources, check out these links:

7 Conversation Tips

Advice for Talking to Your Parents

Choosing the Right Long-Term Care Facility

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