When we’re young, it’s our parents who lead the tough conversations—offering guidance, expressing concern, or sharing advice. But, as both ourselves and our parents age, the roles start to reverse. It’s difficult to see parents getting older, and it can be even more difficult to express concerns about their ability to care for themselves on their own. You want them to be safe, healthy, and happy, and they want to hold onto as much of their independence as possible. This can cause a bit of tension and stress for both parties, so it’s a conversation that people tend to put off or avoid altogether.
In an effort to help families along in this process, we’ve put together some tips and tools that you can use to make the conversation with your aging loved ones go more smoothly and hopefully lead to a positive outcome for all involved.
When is it time to have the talk?
In short—it’s never too early to start having conversations about care with your loved ones. And the sooner you start, the more casual—and hopefully less stressful—these conversations can be. If you start asking your loved ones about their goals, wants, and wishes earlier on, you’re more likely to avoid a crisis when care is needed, but there is no plan in place.
Here are a few things to keep in mind and observe as your loved one ages that could indicate they are ready for some extra assistance:
    • Can they walk from room to room without the risk of falling?
    • Are they able to walk to and from their mailbox and open their mail?
    • Do they grocery shop on their own?
    • And if so, are they capable of getting groceries from the car to their kitchen and stored safely?
    • Do they cook their meals, and if so, can they clean up after themselves?
    • Do they do their laundry?
    • Are they attending social and family activities regularly?
    • Can they get out of bed easily?
    • Do they dress without assistance?
    • Are they able to bathe and groom themselves and maintain good overall hygiene?
    • Are they struggling to remember daily tasks or routines? Mixing up times of day?
How to approach the topic.
Prepare Talking Points
As you make observations about your loved ones, write them down. These notes can be concerns you have, comments they’ve made, or other conversations you’ve had. It’s also important to consider your loved one’s goals, wants, and wishes for the remainder of their life. This will help lead the discussion and also give your loved one reasons that resonate. For example, “Dad, you said you wanted to stay active as you age. This senior living community has a gym and fitness classes. I think you’d really enjoy that.”
Don’t Be On the Attack
It’s important to remember not to be on the attack and approach them in a calm manner. For example, “Mom, I see you have been struggling to keep the house clean. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to worry about maintaining a home anymore?” (As opposed to, “Mom, you need help. You can’t do this on your own.”) Your loved one doesn’t want to feel like they are losing control of making their own decisions. Listen with your full attention, give them time to reflect, and ask questions about how they feel.
Consult With Others
Bringing in other family members, physicians, financial advisors, lawyers, or religious leaders can help you have a well-rounded discussion. With different view points added into the mix, you can present more benefits to your loved one and help them see the bigger picture. There are also social workers that can help facilitate these conversations if it’s becoming too difficult.  
Here to help. 
As a senior living and care organization that has been helping aging adults and their families since 1892, we know how difficult it can be to talk with your loved ones about making the transition to a senior living community. These tips are a great place to start when you’re looking to spark the discussion. We also have a variety of other resources available, from webinars to podcasts and blogs to help you and your loved ones learn more about senior living and all the benefits that it brings. Dive in at  hollandhome.org/resources.