Baylor College of Medicine

Elderly woman reading a book

Talking to loved ones about assisted living

Homa Shalchi


Houston, TX -

Suggesting assisted living to your loved ones can be a very difficult conversation. It may take time for older adults to come around to the idea of assisted living, so avoid pushing them too hard and make a strong effort to ensure they feel safe and comfortable. A Baylor College of Medicine expert explains how to have the assisted living talk with older parents and loved ones.
“Start the conversation as early as possible and focus on what matters,” said Dr. Angela Catic, geriatrician and associate professor in the Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor. “Think about if an assisted living environment could not just support, but enrich things that really bring joy to that individual’s life.”
As adults age, the responsibility of maintaining a home and a yard becomes onerous. The assisted living conversations often develop once adult children notice the burdens their parents carry. The death of a partner may result in an individual feeling alone and losing their social connection, so discussing assisted living also could be a consideration after losing a partner.
When approaching the conversation with a loved one, Catic suggests:

  • Having some facilities in mind, whether you visit them in person or research them online.
  • Presenting options that are close to their home, or with facilities near where an adult child lives if they would consider moving.
  • Being mindful of their feelings if they are resistant to moving to another city close to their adult child – they cannot be expected to acclimate immediately.
  • Asking them if they have friends who have made a similar move and normalize that change is difficult.
  • Involving them as much as possible in the decision and encouraging them to tour facilities with you.

“Find a place they feel good about too and bring some of their belongings,” Catic said. “It’s typically a major downsizing of space, but it is important to bring things that have meaning to them and make it feel like home as much as possible. This may include items like a favorite chair, items they need to engage in a favorite hobby or family photographs.”  
If an older adult refuses, do not keep pushing unless you feel there is a safety issue. Come back to the conversation later and ask if they had the opportunity to think about the idea any further. Events such as hospitalizations or natural disasters also can be a logical time to reconsider the idea of assisted living. Take the opportunity to tell them, ‘I’m glad it went as well as it did, but it could’ve gone differently, so let’s revisit this so you can be in a place with support.’
Catic encourages finding a facility that suits their needs and digging deeper. While a place might look nice in the lobby or during the tour, learn more about their offerings. Get to know the staff and find out about turnover. Some facilities might have a community of veterans or other special populations that are appealing, while others offer “university” for their residents who enjoy and thrive on learning.
“Go beyond the beautiful, fresh flower bouquet in the lobby because this is going to be someone’s home, not a hotel they’re staying in for a couple of nights,” Catic said. “You’re looking for a feeling of home and fitting in with other residents and a staff that feel like family.”

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