How to Talk About Assisted Living With Senior Family Members

A new survey says nearly 50 percent of people find it hard to discuss assisted living with loved ones.

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There are plenty of topics that people try to avoid when they get together with their families around the holidays. Politics tends to be one of them. A recent breakup is often another. But there's one surprising topic of conversation that people tend to avoid, even though it's important to have: whether or not it's time for an aging loved one to get assisted care. If the subject seems awkward or uncomfortable to you, you're not alone. A new survey of 1,500 people conducted by Caring.com and YouGov revealed that nearly half of respondents found it difficult to talk to their loved ones about assisted living.

The most common reasons people struggled with this conversation was that the family member in question didn't believe they needed help, followed by disagreements over the type of care needed and cost.

The survey's respondents also said that some of the first indicators that they noticed in their loved one was that the family member seemed to have trouble walking (18 percent), driving (12 percent), or difficulty remembering things (12 percent). Other signs included struggling with eating, dressing, and bathing, as well as incontinence.

Of course, having a conversation about assisted care is difficult for both sides. No one likes seeing their parents grow old, and parents might bristle at the idea that they can no longer fully take care of themselves. But it's a subject worth tackling before things get worse.

Caring.com offers the following tips for talking about assisted living with someone you love:

1. Do your research ahead of time.

"Don't impulsively bring up the need for care… Researching costs and the pros and cons of different care options, facilities, and providers will prevent you from wasting time and energy discussing an option that isn't feasible or practical for your situation."

2. Start small.

"Test the waters, so to speak, by first asking your loved one about how they feel they're managing housework or any health conditions. If they seem resistant to the idea of care, start by making a suggestion for a small change, such as hiring a weekly housekeeper or purchasing a medical alert system for your loved one to use."

3. Choose your words carefully.

"When discussing the idea of moving to assisted living, be sure to focus on the positive aspects and the ways in which it can improve your relative's quality of life, such as the amenities and social opportunities. Don't repeatedly bring up what your loved one can't do on their own, but rather all of the things that assisted living can bring to their life."

4. Listen to their opinions.

"If they love their current home and neighborhood, look into in-home assisted living options rather than residential care. If cost is a concern, as it is for many people, be sure to look into your state's Medicaid waiver programs, which can give seniors more flexibility in choosing their care. "

5. Be patient.

"Remember that it can be very challenging for someone to accept that they need help, and don't get angry if your loved one isn't receptive to the idea at first. Understand that you may need to bring up the topic several times or present your loved one with several different care options until you agree on a plan that you both are comfortable with."

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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