An aging and increasingly infirm parent can be a challenging reality to face. It can be a difficult issue to confront and acknowledge – that the woman you used to depend upon is no longer independent; either physically or practically. At this point, an assisted living facility seems to make the most sense for her and for you. However, inside her head, your mom is still the fiercely independent and autonomous person she always was.
So you’ve suggested assisted living because you feel she will be safer and happier there. In fact, as per a 2009 Independent Living Report, research indicates that living as part of a community makes one more likely to forge new friendships and try new things. You have also perhaps given a lot of thought to the fact that caring for an elderly person yourself can put a severe strain on your family, and your personal and emotional resources. So you’ve gone and broached the idea with mom only to be met with stiff resistance! The idea of assisted living is distasteful to her! What can you do to help her see it’s a great choice? To help her see happiness behind the decision to move into a residential assisted living home?
Put yourself in her shoes.
Think of the whole situation from her point of view. She is probably having a hard enough time dealing with old age as it is. She is probably unable to do some of the things she enjoyed; has slowed down figuratively and literally. She is no longer as self-reliant as she was and needs help with more things. She is tired more easily and no longer seems to have the limitless stores of energy that she used to have. So, old age can be a challenging reality to face, especially for a woman who is used to managing her own life and making her own decisions. So in a sense your mom is already having a tough time dealing with her situation.
When you introduced the suggestion of assisted living into this equation, it may feel like you’re saying she isn’t who she always was in your eyes. A good dose of listening and connecting with what she loves about life can help this conversation be more proactive than prescriptive. Imagine, not only does she feel her autonomy slipping away, she feels her very sense of self being the parent, eroding. This is hugely difficult for her self-esteem so remember to be empathetic and patient. There is also the fact that she is contemplating leaving the home she loves to be in for a new place to essentially live with strangers. Anyone would baulk when confronted with the possibility of such significant life changes. Remember when you last moved, what made you feel more excited than scared? Was it visiting the new town? Was is a new job or opportunity for a better life? Was it a new sport activity the town offered? A new group of friends? All of these are possible for her with the right residential assisted living home.
Make a list of the pros and cons.
Be honest with her. Tell her about your difficulties and worries. Tell her about your own limitations as a caregiver and speak about your apprehensions and worries. Gently tell her about the possibilities of a medical emergency at any time of the day or night – even when you’re out of town because of work! Speak to her about the unsuitability of continuing to live in a home that is not modified for an elderly person vis-à-vis an elder-friendly, properly equipped and staffed house where she will be safer and more comfortable. These issues are particularly pertinent if she lives alone. Outline the positives of having other like-minded people to speak to and interact with; having the tiresome chores taken care of every day, having a social life again.
Bring in someone she respects.
Let’s face it: she’s changed your diapers and seen you at your worst. You may not be the authority on the matter for her. Also she knows what she knows about life, and maybe there are but a few people in the world whose views she truly respects. So if she hears from a friend who is in her situation and doing well, she may listen willingly and show inclination to change her mind. If one of her close siblings makes the case with you she may be more willing to listen. Use your resources and be ready to go at her pace.
It can also make sense to speak to an expert; someone who is knowledgeable about assisted living facilities, their pros & cons and address some of the apprehensions she may have about her new life there. Consider involving a trusted person such as the family doctor, who can explain to her the real benefits of living within a community of care.
Involve her in the conversation.
It is important to listen to your mother’s side of the story. What really are her apprehensions about going into assisted living? Have you gotten to the heart of the matter for her. Try not to make assumptions about her apprehensions. But do ask yourself, are those apprehensions justified? If she is afraid that she will not like her new house, assure her that you will keep looking until you find the right one. If she is worried that the home will be too far for you to visit, resolve to find a facility close to where you live in Tampa. As you look through the various possible homes for her, involve her in the discovery process. And don’t forget to have fun with it. It can engage her optimism and curiosity if you set the tone for her to discover and decide. When you go for a visit, take her along and give the staff a heads-up email about what she likes and what she doesn’t. Email our helpful staff at email@example.com so they can make sure your mom’s visit goes positively well. Let her see the place for herself and let her meet others who may soon be sharing a home with her.
Take it one step at a time. Introduce the idea and don’t push her to accept your decision. Let her get used to the idea, make sure you give due consideration to her apprehensions and be as gentle and loving as possible. Remember this is a difficult time for her. It’s your turn to make life a bit easier for her.