By Annette Brooks
At first, the warning signs might go unnoticed: your elderly mother’s yard is no longer tidy, or her once flourishing garden is now neglected. Maybe her mail goes unopened, or food is left out to sour. As time moves on, more obvious—and sometimes, more frightening—signs of decline appear: loss of memory, injuries from falls or unexplained events, or even small home fires may occur. Then the decision becomes unavoidable. It’s time to discuss the option of assisted living with someone you love.
When it’s time to address the options for the best care for your aging loved one, often, family members are left with questions, concerns, and the financial worries that come with making such a stressful and major life decision. The dynamics differ for every family, and siblings, spouses, doctors, and caregivers may all weigh in on the decision, There will probably be some disagreement on issues like cost, timing, and more. But by investigating options and having a plan in place, you and your family can be as prepared as possible when the time comes to take action regarding the long-term care of your aging parent or loved one.
Do Your Homework
Just like with any new phase in life, the step towards assisted living requires investigation. Begin by checking with your insurance provider and with Medicaid. Medicaid does cover certain aspects of assisted living, and states independently provide other benefits. Medicare, however, doesn’t cover any assisted living costs. Do your research for your state to see what options you have. Keep in mind that total costs for assisted living can range widely depending on the level of care your loved one requires and the amenities desired.
Keep Communication Lines Open
Talking with an aging parent about assisted living can be extremely difficult. It may help if siblings can form a united front when discussing difficult choices. Sometimes, old family patterns may hijack attempts at mature conversations. Do your best to listen and communicate clearly with your siblings, taking into account each person’s experience and knowledge of the situation.
The primary caregiver, for example, may have stronger opinions than the other siblings regarding the abilities of the aging parent. Take special note of the primary caregiver’s opinions and observations, as they may spend more time with the parent. Attempt to keep emotions out of the equation when having these discussions and to listen to each person’s opinion.
Don’t choose an assisted living facility based on location alone. While wanting to have your parent close, you may need amenities not offered in the closest facility. Sometimes, the best fit isn’t as close to home as you or your parent may prefer. Keep in mind that as your parent continues to age, their needs may change. Is memory care an important element of your parent’s care? Or is physical therapy and rehabilitation following an injury a critical part of their recovery? Does your parent have either diet restrictions or preferences that are important to you? Keep in mind their preferences and your budget.
How to talk to your aging parent about assisted living
- Don’t wait for a health crisis. Have a plan in place.
- Treat them with respect, and ask their opinions.
- Be prepared with a list of topics, concerns, and questions.
- Investigate your options beforehand.
- Talk face-to-face.
- Avoid information overload.
- Plan to talk again.
- Include everyone in the family in your decision-making.
By asking questions, listening, and being open minded with your siblings, together you can help your aging parent make the best decisions possible for their long-term care. Sometimes there are no simple solutions, and the complications that will inevitably arise must be met with maturity, compromise, and patience.