5 Tips to Ease Discussions with Elders about Housing

Carol Bradley Bursack | Jun 13th 2016 Apr 10th 2017

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As you watch your parents or other beloved elders age, sometimes worry becomes inevitable. Should they have housing upgrades? Can they continue to live independently? Your intention isn’t to take over their lives, but you may genuinely want to start the conversation about possible future changes. How do you do this without causing a backlash?

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Ongoing conversations keep it natural

If you and your parents have frequent, casual conversations about options as they age, you’ll have an easier time with the transition than if you leave the topic until there’s a crisis. When you begin the talks, generalize. Mention a wonderful new assisted living that your friend’s mother just moved into. Mention some exciting new upgrades to in-home bathrooms that are actually good for everyone’s safety.  Then, turn the conversation elsewhere.

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Independence vs. safety

One strong point of almost everyone’s personality, is whether or not independence or safety is of primary importance. Some elders feel better when everything is extra safe, while others would rather take some risk for the sake of independence. You as an adult may want safety to come first. However, if your parents’ independence is completely stripped away, they may simply give up. Know your parents and then try to help them find a balance.

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Provide choices whenever possible

If you are like the majority of adults caring for parents, you haven’t discussed aging issues in a natural manner, so you’re facing at least a semi-crisis. How do you tackle options at this time? For the least resistance, provide choices. Suggest that hiring in-home care may be possible with some home upgrades, or mention that assisted living may be something to look at. Also important: Ask what they think. Try to give an illusion of choice even if it’s very limited.

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Don’t let age rule

Age truly is just a number. Most people are aware of the passage of time, however some 70-year-olds are more active and aware than some 50-year-olds. If your parents’ activities aren’t endangering others and they aren’t severely impaired cognitively, they should be able to make their own decisions. They may be more apt to ask for your help when the time comes if you don’t prematurely force it.

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Look to outside help

If you’re truly worried and your parents aren’t being realistic about their health issues, ask to have someone they trust back you up. Just be sure that your concern about their safety is grounded in reality and not just random fear that something may happen, before asking for help. Most parents don’t like being told what to do by their “kids.” Why would they? They may, however, listen to an old friend, a pastor or other religious leader, or to their doctor.

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Be realistic about the situation

Try to overcome ageism when you look at your parents. Are they capable of having early, general chats about many things including the choices that their friends make in deciding on housing as they age? Are they still making wise decisions and having fun? Are they showing signs of dementia? Take all of this into account. Most importantly, make certain in your own heart that any changes that you encourage are for your parents’ best interest rather than solely for your own convenience.