Talking with Aging Parents about Moving into Assisted Living

Posted by Enlivant support center on January 26, 2018
You may have already begun wondering if it is time to look into assisted living options for a loved one, but what’s the first step? When you’re making a decision about moving aging parents into assisted living, having a family meeting is a great way to start. It allows everyone to be together and get on the same page with your loved one’s wishes and long-term living needs. While your first meeting won’t conclude with a perfect plan, it can go a lot smoother and be more productive if you use these tips for moving parents into assisted living.

Pick a time and place
Start by reaching out to your parent and siblings and explain why you think it’s a good time to have a family meeting. The hardest part is usually getting everyone together at one time. Try to pick a location that’s convenient for everyone. If a family member lives out of town, have them join remotely using video chat, like Skype or FaceTime, or set up a conference call line.  

Create an agenda
For the first family meeting, there will be a lot to cover. It helps to plan using a detailed agenda. Remember, while it should be very productive, you won’t get everything accomplished in a single meeting. Focus on three to four topics you want to address. Once you have an agenda, send it to your family so they’re prepared for the conversation. 

Set a positive tone
A successful family meeting is one where everyone feels comfortable and has a voice. Unfortunately, conversations revolving around the decision to move parents into assisted living often have negative connotations. To set the tone for a more positive meeting, consider setting certain expectations: 
  • Have an open mind
  • Listen with compassion
  • Give everyone a turn to speak
  • Use “I” statements (The way I see it… I think… I feel… I’m worried that…), rather than “you” statements (You need this… you’re acting this way… you should…)
  • Focus on the solution, not the problem
  • Silence/turn off cell phones
The meeting
Using your agenda as a guide, begin the discussion. Since the meeting is about your parent, encourage him/her to go first. Invite them to share what’s important to them for their future. Then ask other family members to add to the conversation. As the meeting goes, take notes. It’s important to capture key priorities, decisions made, unresolved issues, and next steps. These notes will help remind your parent and your family what’s been accomplished and what still needs to be addressed. Use these notes to facilitate your next meeting.  

Realistic expectations
When you have a lot of different people together, you’ll have many differing opinions. Achieving consensus on every decision is highly unlikely. If someone doesn’t agree, don’t get stuck. Remember change happens slowly. Try to gain their support by saying, “I know you don’t agree with this right now, but are you willing to think it over?” Collaborate to come up with alternative solutions that you’re all satisfied with.

Set up regular meetings 
As with any big life decision, it takes time to figure everything out. Having regular meetings will give family members time to process information and follow up on next steps. Each time you meet, updates can be shared and additional decisions can be made. Meeting regularly also takes the pressure off having to solve everything at one time.  

Need help?
Even with the best intensions, starting the conversation about moving parents to assisted living can cause tension and may not have the outcome you hoped for. At Enlivant, we are happy to help. Give us a call at 1-888-252-5001.

family meeting tips senior living

Featured in the February issue of Aging Industry Insider.