Although transitioning to an assisted living community offers numerous psychological, financial, and physical benefits for older adults, it’s not always an easy transition to make.
In some cases, aging parents may be resistant to the idea, even if the move would be in their best interest in the long run. When that happens, it’s normal for tensions to rise, affecting both you and your loved one.
Dealing with Elderly Parents who Refuse Assisted Living
Although the state of Washington does not currently have any filial responsibility laws that make you legally responsible to care for your elderly parents, you often can’t just walk away from a difficult situation, at least not without severely straining your relationship.
While dealing with elderly parents who refuse help or a suitable living situation is stressful and draining, the situation is far from hopeless. Here are a few tips for how to have a difficult conversation about assisted living with your aging loved one:
1. Take it Slow and Listen
When an elderly parent refuses assisted living or long-term care services, they have a reason for doing so. Aging can be a bit scary, especially when it is accompanied with cognitive impairment or diminishing mobility. No one likes admitting they can no longer do the things they were capable of doing in their past. Other aging adults may be nervous about leaving a home filled with memories or that they shared with a spouse who has passed.
Starting the process by simply trying to convince your parent that assisted living is a necessity won’t get you far. Instead, focus on listening, and understand it may take time. Offer them gentle reassurance that you want to understand their concerns and give them the validation and empathy they deserve.
2. Give Your Aging Parent Options
An older parent is more likely to be stubborn or resistant if they feel backed into a corner. If possible, approach the conversation with an open mind and the attitude that you want to help them explore what viable solutions are available to them. Presenting your elderly parent with options for assisted living and caregiving services reinforces their independence and autonomy. It also emboldens them to critically evaluate their needs and lifestyle goals and determine what steps it will take to achieve the quality of life they desire.
3. Be Patient—Through Thick and Thin
If you’re facing resistance from your parent about the prospect of moving to assisted living, acknowledge that you’re in for a conversation that may stretch over several weeks or even months. It’s also helpful to understand that stubborn seniors may act similar to adolescents rebelling or struggling against their parents, according to Barbara Krane, co-author of “Coping with Your Difficult Older Parent: A Guide for Stressed-Out Children.” Abruptness, yelling, and walking out of a conversation are all coping mechanisms you may have to endure, but they’re not reasons to give up trying. Stay calm and give it time.
4. Draw in Expert Advice
Sometimes people are more likely to be persuaded if information is presented by an expert or a professional. If you want assistance communicating with your older parent about the benefits of a retirement community, turn to their physician, religious leader, or social worker for advice and intervention. Your parent may be more receptive to them, plus they can provide detailed answers and explanations to assuage any concerns. If you feel like the conversations with your parent are becoming too strained or difficult, having an objective third-party mediator present is helpful. There are also several books, articles, and other resources to share with your loved one to help them research various issues on their own.
5. Be Gracious, Yet Honest
Caring for your parent often takes a toll on several areas of your life, including your career, marriage, activities and interests, and even health and wellbeing. There’s nothing wrong with telling your loved one that while you want to be as available as possible to respond to emergencies and provide care, you have limitations. Being candid and sharing insight into your own experience can even strengthen your relationship and prevent resentment from building up and complicating future conversations. Just be sure you’re being kind and compassionate while explaining your truth.
6. Establish a Support System
Dealing with elderly loved ones when they are being irrational, stubborn, or closed-minded is frustrating, yet you know arguing with them is counter-productive. For your own mental health, make sure you have a support system, whether that be a sibling, friend, or partner. Let them be your sounding board when you need to vent and say all the things you can’t or shouldn't say to your parent. Being relatively detached from the situation, they can also provide an objective and valuable perspective.
Explore Assisted Living in West Seattle
Once your aging parent has started softening to the idea of moving to assisted living housing in the Seattle area, plan a fun day around visiting a couple different campuses to get a feel for which one is the best fit. At Daystar Retirement Village, you can schedule a visit and take a tour of our grounds, community areas, and available housing options. Once your loved one gets a taste of what life is like at Daystar, they may be not only willing but excited to make it their new home.